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1. What is a PDS and why write one?

A product design specification (PDS) is a document which sets out fully and in detail exactly
what will be required of a product, before it is designed. Many companies do not work to such
formal specifications but as a result they are not fully in control of what they produce. PDSs are
A PDS does not just help the people who design and make the product. Those who eventually
use it also benefit. Consumers' and customers judgments are all too often overlooked by
engineers, but people think critically about the products they buy. They certainly will not
hesitate to criticise a product if it does not do, efficiently and reliably, what they expect it to. A
PDS is therefore also an analysis of what the market will demand of the product.

2. Before you write a PDS

A PDS specifies a problem, not a solution. A PDS does not pre-empt the design process by
predicting its outcome. Rather, it defines the task by listing all the conditions the product will
have to meet. This can involve a good deal of research, into market conditions, competing
products, and the relevant literature including patents.
When you write a PDS, you are defining something that does not yet exist. But for practice at
thinking this way, it can help to look at an existing product and work out what its PDS was.
Below is detailed advice on writing your PDS under the following 20 headings. It is therefore a
good idea to write your PDS under these headings.
Some of the points overlap, but do not be tempted to skip any of them. Only by checking all of
them can you be sure you will not overlook something important.
1. Performance
Performance questions are usually the first to occur to engineers/designers, so make these the
first you answer. Questions to answer include, but are not limited to, the following;
What exactly is your product going to do?
How will it be used?
What will be the required quality aspects of the product?
How often will it be used is it reusable etc?
2. Economy
Specifying a high performance product is one thing. Paying for it is another. Be realistic. Can the
performance you desire be realised at a reasonable cost? Companies do not want to make
products customers cannot afford.
Also, beware of overspecifying. Whereas specialist items or one-offs are sometimes held up by
belts as well as braces by over-cautious designers, mass-produced items are seldom
overspecified. Companies cannot afford the unnecessary expense.
3. Target Production Cost
This is an estimate of what it will cost to make your product. Set a figure early in the design
Be realistic. Beware of underestimating
At the same time, bear in mind the prices of competing products; study cost patterns
Estimate the cost of production in the factory. Too high a cost will price you out of the
4. Quantity
How many units are to be produced? The numbers, too, affect production cost. One-offs usually
need little tooling. Small product runs often just need cheap, temporary tooling. Large runs can
mean permanent, expensive tooling.
5. Manufacturing Facilities
As products are to be made in-house, your design will be constrained by the company's existing
Check that your product can be produced on this
Check whether there are any plans to replace existing machinery
Think ahead to later developments of your product. Will the machinery be able to cope
with these too?
6. Product Life Span
Estimate for how long the product is likely to stay on the market. This can affect important
decisions: a long projected life span can make it worth investing in tools or plant which would
not be justified for a short product life.
7. Customers
Identify potential customers. Understanding customers' needs and preferences can greatly
increase your product's chance of being successful. Find out as much about them as you can. If
possible, talk to customers face to face. If not, use other methods, like surveys, to find out what
they want.
8. Competition
Analysing the competition your product will face is essential. A thorough analysis would cover
competing products and their patents.
Consider not only products competing directly with yours but also similar or related ones, and
not only existing products but also any others likely to be on the market when yours is released.
By analysing the competition, you could well give your product the edge.
9. Environment
Try to anticipate any aspects of the product's likely environment that will affect the product or
be affected by it, including:
ambient temperature, pressure and humidity
wear and tear in handling.
Do not consider just the environment the product will eventually be used in. Think also of the
product in storage and in transit.
10. Size
Are there any constraints on the maximum size of your product?
11. Weight
Consider your product's weight. What are the constraints for both ends of the weight scale?
12. Materials
Research the materials used in extrusion blow moulding. Are there any materials out with the
conventional that could be utilised and why?
13. Special Processes
Is there any manufacturing processes other than extrusion blow moulding techniques that
could be used to make your product? If so what are their advantages.
14. Ergonomics
All products have an interface with people. They have to be handled by people of all shapes and
sizes. Design ergonomically: make your product easy to work with.
15. Appearance
Think from the start about the eventual appearance of your product. It will be the first thing to
strike anybody considering buying it.
16. Finish
Before deciding on shape, form, colour, and surface finish, try out your ideas on people with
knowledge in sales and marketing, and listen to their advice. It is very hard to improve the
appearance of an unattractive product once it has been made.
17. Quality
Think of the quality aspects that will be demanded by both the customer and the consumer and
how your product will meet such demands.
18. Packing
Will the product need special packing for transport, storage or protection?
Take account of the cost and bulk of any packing.
19. Testing
After your product has been made, it will need a factory test to see whether it actually complies
on every point with its PDS. Plan for this test now. Write a test specification answering
questions like these:
What proportion of the production run will you take as a sample for testing?
Describe the test rigs that might be used
How will the data be collect the data?
As well as factory tests, some products need acceptance and witness tests. Plan these now too
if necessary.
20. Personnel
Check that the necessary expertise will be available for each stage of the product's
development. Use this step to assign roles.