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Concept Development and Testing

Essential Product Development for Engineers


Concept Development

Developing the best idea or group of ideas is the next stage after concept screening. The purpose here is to work the idea(s) up in a bit more detail, with further refinement. This reduces risks and maximises the chances of product development success.

It should be noted, development the concept is different from detailed design engineering, which features later on in the development process. Instead this phase is about modest development of the technical aspects and marketing considerations for your chosen concept. However like all parts of the product development process this stage is scalable, depending on the complexity of the product and length of the process.

The cross-functional team should use their expertise and breadth at this stage to examine and refine the concept, from a number of viewpoints. Considerations and a range of questions (and variations of those questions) can help facilitate this:


Considerations

  • Visualise the concepts, so they can be better understood by all. Consider using any of the following; CAD photorealistic rendering, CAD simulation and animation, artistic rendering, professional sketches and drawings.

  • If possible produce physical mock-ups so people can get a feel for how the idea looks in 3D space. Consider models in a variety of modelling materials. These may include traditional modelling materials or 3D Printing. Think about mocking up sections of the concept to illustrate your ideas in greater detail.

  • This also may be a useful stage to start amalgamating the best ideas and features from some of the most successful concepts.


Developing Concepts with Trusted Users 


Questions

  • How do you think the target market will react to the new concept(s)?

  • Does the concept still offer tangible benefits and advantages over competing products (or even your existing products)?

  • From a marketing and sales perspective, is the concept likely to convince the key person expected to be making the buying decision?

  • Do you need to consider patents and intellectual property (IP) at this stage? Having access to IP experts and patent searches may save lots of time, effort and grief later.

  • What engineering, technical and manufacturing considerations are now emerging, now the concept can be reviewed in a bit more detail? Is it still feasible or are adjustments necessary.

  • Are the key specification requirements and performance characteristics still likely to be met?

  • Will technical solutions require new in-house development (with the associated cost and risk)? Or alternatively can features, technologies and parts be bought off the shelf, with reduced risk. What systems and integration considerations are there?

  • Have you a feel for the cost of production at this stage?


Concept Testing

Obtaining the opinions of stakeholders beyond your cross-functional team may provide you with additional feedback, which may be invaluable in setting the future direction of the project. Some manufacturing businesses use focus groups from the target market or a small selection of loyal customers to test new product concepts. Ideally the concept should be mocked up in a typical usage situation.

These sessions should include thorough scrutiny, with questions encouraged about every aspect of the new concept. The session requires a facilitator, who may want to include documentation and information to stimulate discussions and questioning, such as the specification and the findings of the internal cross-functional team. Alternatively consider customer surveys and interviews to gauge opinion. Marketing companies can assist here.

Record the findings and carefully consider what aspects of feedback you want to consider incorporating later in the development process.

Consider using the opportunity to test related themes like packaging, service ideas and disposal of older products you aim to replace. Finally, it goes without saying customers and test groups outside the business, should be trustworthy and potentially bound by some sort of confidentiality agreement.

At the end of this stage you should have one selected concept you are prepared to fully develop. It may have been modified and refined, having been through the final stages of the concept phase. It may also incorporated features and good ideas from earlier concepts.

Finally, some sort of approval (either formal or informal) should be the trigger to progress the project. This will include agreement from the cross-functional team.

Concept Development


Next... Embodiment Design: Product Functions and Assemblies


Back to Product Development Essentials 


When was the last time your business developed a NEW product? ...Or is 'Product Development' too far removed from your core Production Engineering activities?

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