Seven Great Questions to Ask When Specifying Product


by  on March 7, 2011

question on paperLOSTPED: what in the world is that? If you google the word, it thinks you really want Lostpedia. But what it really stands for is a method to ask intelligent questions to your customer to get the main details on an application.

The story starts with a previous position of mine where we manufactured and sold very high precision positioning devices to industries such as semiconductor manufacturing. Internally our application engineers never received all the proper information from the district sales managers to be able to size the right system. It was frustrating because we always lost time going back and forth trying to get all the information. By the time we did, someone else had already quoted. So LOSTPED was born.

Right after the initiation of LOSTPED, I was visiting a customer in Oregon who brought out their very intimidating PHD in Motion Control. He sat across from me and asked what I needed from him to deliver a quote. I almost forgot about LOSTPED, but remembered the acronym and started down the path. By the end of the meeting I had more information than I needed to size the proper system. Before leaving, the PHD said to me, “Finally a vendor that knows what they are talking about. I look forward to your proposal.”

When you have a new application just play it cool and go through each letter; ask the question and you will be surprised how accurate a description you will get from the customer.  Here we go:

Load: How much is the unit carrying, pushing, pulling? Is the unit exposed to shock loads? Are there dynamic loads that you might not see from a drawing?

Orientation: Is the system horizontal or vertical? What is the plane of travel? Will the orientation affect the lubrication in the system? Do you need to consider safety because of the orientation?

Speed: How fast does the system need to move from point A to B? Are there any special acceleration or deceleration requirements?

Travel: What is the total travel for the system? Is a long travel needed while most of the work is being done in a very small area? Is it reaching a length of travel that may cause binding or buckling?

Precision: How close do you need to be when the system moves or indexes? Do you need high accuracy over the length of the system or high repeatability? Do you need external position feedback to make sure you have reached your location?

Environment: Is it exposed to the elements, water, dirt, or other contaminants? What kind of protection is right for the application? Do you need a special maintenance regiment?

Duty Cycle: What is the typical cycle time? How often will the customer be running the system? Is it moving continuously or often sitting idle? What type of lifetime is the customer expecting from the system?

I’ve used LOSTPED thousands of times over the last 20 years. It always helps me gain valuable information from the customer in a structured way. Getting all the information from the customer during that one visit is half of the battle; sounding like you know what you are talking about is the other half! For greater technical details about LOSTPED, check out my original article “Solving the LOSTPED Puzzle” published in Manufacturing Engineering magazine.

This blog post was written by Scott Spangler, former Sales & Marketing Manager for the Duff-Norton Company.

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