Jan 16, 2019 in Business

Product Evaluation Essay

Introduction

Over the years, products have developed and evolved to suit the need of the customers (lrich & Steven, 2004). The evolution of umbrellas has been steady over the years, propelled by the customer needs and market dynamics. As umbrella manufacturers try to improve their products to surpass those of their competitors, they have identified many attributes that would be attractive to users. Generally, there has not been a complete change on the design of an umbrella, but small attributes such as their handles has been vital. An umbrella handle is used not only for holding while the umbrella is in use, but also for storage purposes. Initially, umbrellas had long straight handles, but their storage while not in use paved way for curved handles. These were appreciable due to their ability to hang to drip off water just after use. It would also reduce the chances of the umbrella falling off because they would be stable, unlike the leaning umbrellas which could easily slip by and fall, making it dirty.

With time, the size of the umbrella changed, with some being small and suitable for only one person, while others are large and can accommodate two people. This means that the length of the hook was becoming a factor because some of the big umbrellas could not be held by the short hooks. At the same time, the placement board was vital in that some desks were too unfavorable to place the umbrella as the curve was too short.

In this regard, a new design was devised, where the curve could be adjusted to fit the available surface. The curve is made in a flexible manner and could elongate the size of the curve as appropriate. This allows the user to place the umbrella on any desk, let it drip water with little chances of it falling off. The surface is also rough further reducing the chances of the umbrella to slip off as in the case of a long handled umbrella. Further, the handle material could be changed. This would ensure that the customer could place the umbrella safely on any surface and change the appearance with the change of the handle. The change of handles is not only a performance enhancing feature, but also an aesthetic element of the umbrella. 

Customer Requirements

Aesthetics

When customers go out to shop for umbrellas, they do so with their mind focused on the aesthetical qualities of the umbrella. This is because whenever they use it, it becomes part of their attire. Many would like to carry presentable umbrellas that would match the clothes they wear, so that their general image remains intact. Further, a good looking umbrella exudes classy appearances and orderliness. Umbrella manufacturers are therefore tasked to ensure that their colors, material are acceptable to many,. Since people cannot buy many umbrellas to go with their daily outfits, it is important to ensure that the manufacturers choose a color that would most likely match with many clothing. The handle may be among the most important parts because its closeness to the hands should go along with ornaments such as watches, braces, bangles among others.  

Storage

Storing an umbrella is vital to its appearance. Since most of them are usually wet and dripping with water after use, they require positional storage that would allow them to dry up by allowing the water to drip off. The position of the umbrella is therefore vital. During this storage and drying up, the umbrella must be stable and must not easily fall off. This is because if a wet umbrella fall off, it could fall on a dusty surface and get dirty. This would then be a very bad image for the user the next time they use it to shelter from rain or sun. In most cases, the handle dictates storage, which is the point at which the umbrella is hung on desks. The handle should therefore accommodate any surface as a hanging surface and ensure that there is maximum stability on this surface. The handle should have a strong grip and should not easily slide off and let the umbrella fall off to a possibly dusty floor.     

Ease of Grip During Use

Umbrellas are used in different weather conditions, either to shelter from scorching sun or from rain. In case of the latter, it could be accompanied by strong winds or even storms. This calls for a strong handle that would not allow the umbrella to be blown off easily. The handle becomes a very important aspect of the tool because it enhances the grip and usability during adverse weather conditions. If the handle was smooth and straight, it would be challenging to keep a grip on it, unlike the curved and rough handles. Furthermore, the rough handle should be adequately accommodating to the hand of the user because a hard and rough surface held for long could cause blisters and unwanted discomfort. 

Strength of the Material for Making the Umbrella

When shopping, customers look for longevity and strength of the tool (Keller, 2006). Some umbrellas are of high quality and others are only used once and they spoil. Many customers would prefer long lasting umbrellas, while still keeping their appearances fairly good. Since they are also used under strong weather conditions such as storms and strong winds, the umbrellas could embarrass the user if they were easily blown off. They would in this case leave the user in the cold and get rained on which eventually discredits the essence of the umbrella. Customers would look for umbrellas that would serve them and not collapse when they need them most. 

The Weight of the Umbrella

Umbrellas are carried during bad weather conditions and they are usually held using one hand. This calls for manufacturers to ensure that they have light material that would not be a burden to the user and eventually tire them before they get to their destination. Despite being light, the umbrella should be strong enough to be used under strong winds.

Engineering Design Attributes

The material used

The handle used ensures versatility of the umbrella and increases its aesthetic attributes. It should also be light and easy to manage especially when cleaning, and should not fade away with time. Further, the material should be non-allergic to most people and should not have any other negative health impacts. At the same time, this material should retain its shape and sizes during changing and should not scratch off the fixing point, making it bigger of distorting its shape and make it harder to fix another handle. The material used is one of the attributes that customers check out for and makers should ensure that the right material is used to make the umbrella and the handle. The designers should in this case chose the handle material carefully with the needs of their target customers in mind. 

Flexibility of the handle

The strength of this umbrella design is the flexibility of the handle. It attempts to improve the challenging storage attributes of an umbrella and the flexibility is vital to the acceptance of this tool. If the flexibility affects usage and enhances storage, then the design is not friendly to the user. The adjustment qualities of the umbrella handle must not be affected by strong winds, making the user use more efforts grasping this handle as it adjusts. The adjustment should also ensure that the initial goal of proper storage is achieved and the umbrella can be placed on many surfaces without falling off. The designers should therefore ensure that the moving parts articulate perfectly and without jamming or scratching. 

Weight of the handle

Umbrella users are not always strong or used to holding things for long. A heave handle would call for unwanted commitment of the user since it would be held using one hand, and could be held for long periods. This calls for an easy to hold material and light to the hand to reduce chances of the user getting tired. In this case, the material used should be light, despite being strong enough to withstand bad weather conditions. The designers should therefore ensure that the thickness, length and quantity of the material used matches the attractive needs of the clients.  

Size of the handle

Different people want different sizes of their tools and clothing, and umbrellas. Small bodies people may want small umbrellas, unlike the big-bodied. The size of the umbrella should dictate the size of its handle. During the development of the tool, the designers should ensure that there is professional match between the size of the whole umbrella and the handle that can be fixed on it. The size should also consider the targeted user since the product should be dictated by the needs of the customers. Furthermore, during its placement on surfaces, the handle should be adequate to hold the umbrella from falling off, hence ensure safe storage. If the handle fails to perform this function, it loses the competitive advantage of the umbrella over its competitors. 

Smoothness of the handle

The comfort of using a tool is vital to its attractiveness. Customers may require very smooth handles that would not hurt their palms, even if they used the tool for long. The flexibility of the handle is guaranteed and this comes along with unwanted attributes such as rough edges and joints. Such features could destroy the attractiveness of the product. The designers should therefore ensure that every sharp edge and every moving joint of the handle is well smoothened and made as attractive to the palm of the user as possible. At the same time, the smooth handle must not compromise the storage attributes of the umbrella, which is supposed to be the competitive edge of the product. This balance is vital and the design must be creative enough to strengthen it while ensuring that the usability of the umbrella is not compromised at all.  

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Strength of the Material

Umbrella users do not want to buy new ones every month. They want an umbrella that would last long, while still keeping the attractive features. The umbrella handle should not fade and should not be unable to perform its roles of storage after some time. It should therefore be well polished to ensure it does not fade after a short time. The designers should also ensure that the handle does not get destroyed during adjustments. This calls for a very critical design of the moving and flexible parts, as they should not easily wear out. The material should be strong, though it should be light, and well polished.

Competitor Analysis

Before a business takes off, there is need to survey the market and analyze the strategies used by the competitors, especially when introducing a new product (Preston & Donald, 1998). The new umbrella design is attractive and seems to solve several weaknesses that old umbrellas were unable to overcome. Storage was a big problem with the old designs and there has been wide research trying to improve this weakness. There are two main types of umbrella designs competing with the new one. These are the long-handled umbrella and Brach-podium umbrella.

The Long-handled Umbrella

They are among the common umbrella designs. They are however unattractive because of their difficulty in storage. They usually slip off and fall off due to their low traction between their handles and the desks. It also has little friction between the tip and the floor on which it is placed, making it unfavorable in storage. Their designers are also challenged by the general size of the umbrella. However, they are among the main competitors to the success of the new flexible umbrella. This is because they are cheaper to make and they are already established in the market and such products are always preferred to new, before they make their breakthrough (Khurana & Rosenthal, 1998). The new flexible umbrellas have addressed the main challenge of storage due to their ability to be placed anywhere and ensure that they are stable and would not easily fall off. 

The Brach-podium Umbrella

These are among the latest inventions of umbrella designs. They have gained popularity and are the main competitors to the flexible umbrellas. This is because they are small when folded, can be hand on even a small protrusion and are cheap. Their design is very simple and leaves them very cheap as compared to the flexible handled umbrella. A short string is used to hang the umbrella, and can be used for very long periods. Further, they are light and convenient to carry making them the first choice and posing the greatest competition to the long handled umbrellas and the flexible handle umbrellas.    

Despite their attractiveness, the Brach podium umbrellas are not as strong as the flexible handled ones. They are not long lasting. Further, they are not as classy as the flexible handled ones because they have only one handle and that cannot be matched with different outfits. The flexible handled umbrellas are more attractive and can have more aesthetic attributes to the users as they can match their outfits with the handles they use. At this stage of evolution of umbrellas, the three designs will continue to innovate and create better products for their markets. The market has been lull for many years, but the new innovations may just take the market to the next level of creativity and customer focus. 

SWOT Analysis of the Flexible Handle Umbrella

Strengths

Flexibility (changeable handle) – The changeable handle is a major strength of this product. It ensures that customers can chose the appearance of their umbrellas whenever they use them. This is a deep contrast with their competitors as they are all fixed. 

The simplicity of the design – The design is simple to understand and use. It is easy to explain to a customer how the handle can be changed and they can all see the benefits of these changes. They can see the stability of the umbrella when in storage.

Weakness

High Price – The material used to make the complex handles and joints may make the product more expensive in contrast with their competitors. Product differentiation is an important strategy of increasing t he competitive advantage of a product, but price differentiation is usually a very strong differentiation strategy (Byron & John, 2001; Preston & Donald, 1998).

Persistence – the material used to make the handles may not last long. This is because there is increased movements and fixing that may lead to more wear and tear. The worn out parts can even cause cuts to the user. 

Opportunity

Development – there is a high possibility that the product can be improved because it is still in its rudimental stages. The designers need to listen to the needs of the customers and improve the product as appropriate.

Threat

Safety – The umbrella can be easily lose its hardness and eventual longevity due to increased movement during removing and fixing the handle. 

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