Product development, innovation and the product life cycle
A Portakabin case study

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Page 3: Product design

Portakabin 18 Image 6Portakabin must keep up-to-date with its building structures to ensure it meets the needs of its twenty first century customers. This aspect of the product relies heavily on innovative designs. Design involves making the product distinctive. Portakabin uses ‘value analysis’ to develop products that achieve the right balance in the minds of its customers. The mnemonic FACUP is a useful way of remembering the key elements to consider with any product’s design:

  • Function
  • Appearance/Aesthetics
  • Cost
  • Unleashes
  • Profits

Portakabin designers must ensure that the appearance of its products is suited to its customers’ needs. In such a competitive industry it is important that they be aesthetically pleasing. The cost of production should be as efficient as possible. Portakabin excels here as it is able to manufacture buildings efficiently in its own state-off-the-art factory. There are many functional factors that must be taken into account when designing a product. These include:

  • safety
  • reliability
  • maintenance
  • convenience
  • efficiency.

The latest product that Portakabin has designed is its Yorkon Building System (YBS). The YBS is an example of new product development (NPD) which is the process of researching, designing and marketing a new product. Research and development are distinctive elements of NPD.

Research and development

Research and development is the process of conceiving, developing and testing possible new products until they meet the requirements stipulated by the market. The YBS required the development of new production processes and materials. These included factory production techniques that enabled a flexible product:

‘The new production processes give Portakabin the flexibility to produce buildings using more than a thousand permutations of automatically produced walls, roofs and floors. It means that a building can be precisely manufactured to the customer’s desired footprint, making maximum use of the available space.’

The outcome is that the YBS has long walls uninterrupted by sections or columns. In other words, architects can give customers exactly what they want, making it totally customer-focused. Advancements in technology also play a key role in NPD, for instance:

‘The new product has been made possible by a state-oft-he-art production technique that uses the largest automated press of its kind in Europe.’

The outcome of the new technology is that Portakabin can combine over 2500 precision components to an accuracy of the smallest fraction of a millimetre. This is not possible with traditionally built structures. The third element of the R&D was developing new materials. Portakabin developed everything from the design of the windows, the external colours, claddings and finishes to a choice of styles for roofs and entrances so that thousands of combinations are possible. The result is that the final building is designed to the customer’s exact specification.

Portakabin | Product development, innovation and the product life cycle