Expert Manufacturing Advice tailored for step-by-step implementation in the workplace. Small Manufacturers, Machine Shops and CAD Engineers improve and thrive with our hands-on help. Concept Design: Successfully Sourcing and Generating Ideas Essential Product Development for Engineers
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The Concept Design stage encompasses a number of phases. These include generating ideas, and then screening them to identify the best ones. Following this, the remaining ideas may be developed and tested. Below we’ll take a look in more detail at these steps.
A fundamental stage in product development is concept generation – the ability to come up with new ideas for products. Typically, a business will create a range of ideas and options, before selecting the best one, which is then taken forward and developed. Ideas are normally evaluated and the top one selected against the specification. They are rated by reviewing which idea best meets the specification criteria. Idea generation may also involve identifying a range of advantageous new features, functions or assemblies, which may then be developed-up to enhance an existing product.
Where Do I Get Ideas From?
New product development ideas can come from a wide variety of sources. The key thing is to be aware of these potential situations, as well as having some method of capturing ideas, so they can be reviewed in due course.
Ideas from Inside the Business
o designers and engineers of different disciplines
o production and manufacturing
o sales and marketing
o finance and accounting
o service and maintenance
o installation and commissioning
o middle and senior management
Ideas from Outside the Business
Where Do Good Ideas Come From? - Sources of Concepts
Considerations for Concept Generation
Solid preparation can increase your chances of concept generation success. Attempt to fully understand the problem and more fundamentally, what is driving the need for new product development. Ultimately what is the purpose? What are you aiming to achieve and why? SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) and PESTLE (political, economic, society, technological, legal and environmental) analysis may help define and clarify the reasons for product development, and so steer concept generation activities.
An example may be the decision to develop an entry-level machine and add it to your existing product range, in response to lower cost overseas entrants in the market. However, in an attempt to offset inherently high labour costs, ideas may include concepts which focus on low cost materials, finishes, standard stock parts and quick production and assembly methods.
In short, smart ideas that best utilise value engineering methods may be favourable. An alternative example may include introducing a high-end product at the top of your product range, which can be sold for a premium into expanding buoyant markets where there is an appetite for more expensive goods.
Advanced Brainstorming for Better Quality Ideas
Think about using powerful problem solving and creativity tools such as TRIZ. TRIZ – the theory of problem solving highlights how different problems and their respective solutions are repeated across different industries. As such, it is possible to methodically consider a range of solutions to a given problem in a structured manner, and let this drive your concept generation.
TRIZ Further Explained
Props for Inspiring and Stimulating Ideas
Consider gathering information and items to inspire concept generation. This may include:
Include anything that may inspire.
Use the specification to guide and support the idea generation process. Distribute copies of the specification to all involved, to spark ideas that meet the requirements laid out in the document.
Use the examples above to get over mental blocks, or stalled ‘round robin’ brainstorming sessions
Creative Thinking Tools and Techniques
Investigate and discover other creativity tools to assist concept generation. Examples include, De Bono’s 6 Thinking Hats, synectics and SCAMPER (substitute, combine, adapt, modify/minify/magnify, put to other use, eliminate, reverse/rearrange). A little research into some of the tools can really enhance idea generation activities, in particular by providing structure and breadth.
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