High-tech companies like to think that their product designs are in sync with consumer requirements, thought processes, and whims, but that's not always the case.
The two mindsets are frequently misaligned on some key criteria, according to a recent report released by UL, a global independent safety science company.
In its third year, The Product Mindset study, which examines how manufacturers and consumers think and feel about the products made, sold, purchased, and used, found that quality, safety, and innovation remain the most important factors driving manufacturer and consumer behaviors. But, here's the rub — there are significant gaps in how each segment perceived these areas.
Likewise, concerns about supply chain transparency and outsourcing/country of origin are increasing, noted the company's press release. Again, though, there's a notable rift in who sees what and how they see it.
The survey of 1,528 consumers and 1,521 manufacturers in the high-tech/consumer electronics, food, home, building materials, and smart appliances sectors across five countries (Brazil, China, Germany, India, and the United States) show vast differences in opinion.
For instance, 95 percent of manufacturers said they believe product quality is important, making it the No. 1 overall manufacturing consideration. However, 51 percent of consumers think manufacturers use the lowest cost materials in their products regardless of quality.
On the innovation front, 91 percent of manufacturers reported innovation is becoming more important as opposed to 63 percent of consumers who said they feel new products are brought to market faster than they're needed.
What should we make of these splits? Eighty-four percent of manufacturers report that internal and external stakeholders are increasingly demanding more supply chain transparency, while 42 percent of consumers believe that manufacturers do not provide sufficient transparency. And during a time when there's much focus on conflict minerals, country of origin sourcing, and procurement practices and counterfeit parts monitoring, the report shows that 69 percent of manufacturers agree that it is very important to clearly show consumers which components are included in their products. At the same time, 43 percent of consumers feel that manufacturers do not make it easy.
The report lists other point-of-view departures on other important themes, such as product safety, environmental impact, the ethical treatment of workers, and regulation. More or less, the numbers follow a similar pattern. Manufacturers have the higher percentage of respondents who believe that certain issues weigh pretty heavily on their minds and that they are addressing these things adequately. Consumer stats come in lower, with opinions leaning towards criticism of companies choosing sales and profits over most everything else.
The responses vary so much, it seems logical to ask who's right or wrong in all this. Are manufacturers really doing enough? Are consumers quick to point fingers of blame on the “big guys”?
Then, again, maybe it boils down to the simpler question you may hear parents ask their kids: Who has their listening ears turned on?