To meet consumer demand, a company must have a product development process that efficiently moves a product from concept to reality. The process must be carefully executed or else the risk of failure is high. Inefficient designs, the wrong materials, or problems with the manufacturing process can result in a failed product. There is much to know about product development and design before you get started.
Consumer product development requires several components to improve the chances of success. These include:
- A good idea: Before a product is developed, the process often starts when someone identifies a problem, thinks of a solution, and has the mindset to revolutionize the industry. To do this, you need industry knowledge and to apply the idea in context. Yet what often seems like a great idea might have design flaws. Careful considerations must go into design, development, prototyping, and testing, as well as market research.
- Proper design and engineering: If you have a new concept, you might use commercial-off-the-shelf equipment or change, adapt, or build upon a model previously used (although trademarks, patents, and pricing must be considered). Starting from scratch is another option, but requires objectives such as product design for affordability, assembly, tolerances, and optimizing for the manufacturing process.
- The proper materials: The balance between low material costs and ensuring reliability and function is always in play. A product won’t succeed if it doesn’t function. Think of the characteristics you need a material to have (ridged or pliable, heat resistant, etc.). For example, there are hundreds of plastics among other materials suited for injection molding, but you need the best one for the manufacturing process in question.
Elements of Product Development
The best approach is to have a phased plan. No matter how unique your product is, the process of going from idea to market usually follows a similar pattern. Budget is almost always an overlying factor; it can be easily broken by handling a large project as a single unit, which makes estimating time and cost a challenge, or completing parts before you have complete specifications. You can use a phased program plan to address these issues.
Other key aspects of developing a new product include:
- Defining its purpose: Before you plan a project, you must know what the goals are. Identify the problem you’re trying to solve and what sets it apart from the competition.
- Developing specifications: The details must be extremely meticulous. Here is where you will define the technical requirements of the product; vagaries and omissions can cost you greatly.
- Developing a concept: This engineering stage requires brainstorming and developing designs you can compare to your specification; you can have mockups of different concepts.
- Detailed design: The concept is taken to the next level, moving toward prototyping and testing; this is where the bulk of your development efforts take place. It might require testing parts of your design and making refinements—often several of them—until you get it right.
How to Approach Ideation
The ideation step, often referred to as Fuzzy Front-End (FFE), is an essential stage of product research and development. Consider it a form of pre-development before any formal development begins. Although there are many ways to generate ideas, FFE can follow a few consistent steps, which include determining the goal of your innovation. Without clearly outlining the problems you want to solve, you are setting your product up for failure.
Learning how your customers feel about your goal helps you create something they need, want, and may be loyal to. A new design or formula, even based on market research, must be carefully executed or else customers may reject it. It’s also important to have data. How is your idea connected to other market segments? How are people using similar products, what are they paying for them, and how are they benefiting? An overview of market size and a segmentation analysis should also be part of your market research strategy.
Prototyping is another important step. First, it helps verify your design, which may be a 3D representation or a fully functional model. To identify potential points of failure and/or improvement, test this prototype in different use-case scenarios. Also, identify a sample of your target market and have customers beta test your ideas. Involving customers in product development can reduce uncertainty and make your objectives clearer.
These ideation concepts can aid in planning, so you know how to develop, manufacture, and market a product. You should have a mission statement, market trends, data on customer benefits and acceptance, and a product definition, specifications, and technical concepts. An economic analysis of the product, a development schedule, business plan, staffing, and budget must also be in place.
Your product ideas may be innovative, but they must pertain to your company’s skill sets, be in the interest of the organization, solve some kind of problem, and be scalable. They must meet specific criteria within your company. Also, customers must also be willing to purchase the product.
How to Apply Innovation
Before you move toward product manufacturing, you need to determine what type of new product you’re going to make. Remember, the product may only be new to your company. Similar ones may be out there. There are a few categories of innovation, so your products may be considered:
- Breakthrough: The product is something the world has never seen and represents a technological advancement, significant performance improvement, or cost reduction. Such products often come on strong until other manufacturers catch up.
- Incremental: A new generation of an existing product line, an incremental product represents an improvement and can extend the lifecycle of a breakthrough product. It is beneficial in terms of generating future revenue without high
- Platform: Although not an iteration of a product before it, a platform product sets the foundation for the next generation, laying down a basic design that can be used for future products suited for various applications and markets.
- Disruptive: A disruptive product may take longer to catch on, and then grows rapidly. It is often a simple, low-cost solution that disrupts market-leading products. At first, the quality might be subpar, but consistent improvements enable the product to dominate the market.
Product Development Methodologies
Product planning should be thoughtful and organized. Knowing which methodology to use and incorporate into your process can streamline manufacturing. Many methodologies are rooted in
Business Process Management and consist of:
- Lean Product Development (LPD): Utilizes lean principles to cut development and production costs, shorten development time, and create new products that meet customers’ needs.
- Design for Six Sigma (DFSS): Like traditional Six Sigma, DFSS is focused on measurement and is implemented by defining, measuring, analyzing, designing, and verifying a design.
- Quality Function Deployment (QFD): Quality is designed into a product, rather than introduced later; customer interviews, surveys, focus groups, and other methods are used to ensure the product meets their needs.
- Flexible Product Development: Continual changes to the product are made so it’s more agile. It might have a modular architecture while new processes may be created as the product develops.
- User-Centered Design: A methodology focused on the usability of the design, often applying real-world testing to address the current user experience rather than change it.
- Design for Manufacturing (DFM)/Design for Assembly (DFA): With DFM, the design approach focuses on ease of manufacturing, while DFA establishes rules to simplify assembly.
- Virtual Product Development (VPD): Building prototypes in digital 2D or 3D format shorten lead time. All designing, testing, and planning are done in a digital environment. Originally applied to construction, this is now used in almost every industry.
Refining the Product Development Process
In developing your process, follow best practices such as putting your customers’ needs and wants first, creating fair pricing, considering your profit margins from the start, and introducing your product at the right time. Successful manufacturing also requires anticipating your competition and implementing process management from the start. Product development and design should be integrated within your company so it can be well managed.
There should also be a set of standards to follow. Audit your projects, have databases with notes on the product concept and processes used, and make sure engineers have development notebooks. Your results should be centrally stored and project management, technology, and marketing databases should be in place. Teams should be cross-functional, so everyone is on the same page.
While this is just a brief overview of how to streamline the development process, you need to empower your team with standardized decision-making criteria, set realistic timelines, and be decisive in leading your team at all stages of development.
Shorten Your Development Lifecycle
A talented creative team, strong management, capital, and reactive customer service can speed up development. A parallel approach helps as well. You can establish multifunctional teams to work and complete tasks in parallel. This should be set up before manufacturing, but you don’t have to go through the product development lifecycle alone.
Laszeray Technology LLC can assist your company at every stage of the process, from developing your idea/concept to manufacturing the actual product. We specialize in many types of product design, including CNC machining, injection molding, and rapid prototyping. Our development process employs cross-functional expertise, proven resources, advanced problem-solving techniques, and extensive market knowledge.
For help from our industry-leading engineers and designers, and to get your prototype or product completed with speed and accuracy, call 440-582-8430 or request information