What your Runner Wants: Engineering with the End-User in Mind

For a trail runner that loves a challenge and the most beautiful landscape that exists in the Sierra Nevada’s, I rely on organizations such as Ascent Runs.  When I first wandered upon their website, I was drawn in by their mission statement. “To create and host challenging, fun, and memorable trail running experiences that promote the natural environment of the Tahoe Basin and contribute to the success of local businesses and communities”.  I have found this to be true in every event.  This organization knows which runners they are trying to please and they always try to keep the customer in mind when they design a new race.

This is a significant concept that can be incorporated into all professional fields, but is very important for the up and coming engineers to understand, “you must know your end-user”.  Engineers can be very creative in their field when designing products.  But if your end-user is going to have complications with the design, they will not see value added in the product and most likely reject it.

One of my favorite memories of this occurring, was when a young Mechanical Engineer Intern was tasked to redesign a hydraulic pump system that had to fit in a particular location.  He sat at his computer for weeks drawing up the design, and when he requested the installation occur, the proposal was denied.  The design itself would have functioned perfectly for the required performance; however, when preventative maintenance had to be performed on the system, it was impossible unless you took the entire unit apart making it impractical for use.

So what actions could this young Intern have taken to design a practical system?  The first item would have been to take a step back and determine all parties that would be involved in the end application.  The Intern’s focus was just on the functionality of the system and missed the requirement of maintaining the system.  Before I start developing, I find it useful to discuss with different parties to determine who the end-users will be. This allows for idea interaction from various sources.

Secondly, if the Intern would have kept open communication with all end-users, he could have received their input through the design process and modified the system during development. Unfortunately, he decided not to include communication, resulting in weeks of lost productivity and he had to redesign the system in the end. Communication is a key skill in order to create a value added product.

Third, he forgot about the human element.  As engineers we get excited to create something new and innovative, but it is important to remember human interaction will occur.  You will need to determine what physical attribute, cognitive ability, and ergonomics are required for interaction with the user. Always keep the end-user in mind.

As for Ascent Runs, they focus on their end-user by giving them exactly what they expect; 25 miles with a 6700-foot vert, that you know is going to be rough going up. When you reach that peak, and see that unforgettable view, all pain melts away to success. Your awe moment.

Please leave feedback on what you expect as a end-user?

Author: Natalie Grace Keyser

I am a dedicated Quality/Technology Manager, driven Metallurgical Engineer, Supporter of Future Professional. My professional personality shows in my running, where I will not back down from a challenge or slow down before the finish line is reached.

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