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Making it Happen: Product Development Action Plan
Right! Time to get started! We’ve covered a lot of ground, discussing what the best manufacturers do to dramatically increase their chances of product development success. We’ve looked at stages of the development process, analysed how professional designers can bring big benefits and we’ve examined factors like costing, intellectual property, R&D and innovation.
So how can we bring it all together in a neat summary, designed for implementation and delivering results? Well, the list below sets out an action plan to make it happen. Refer back to the relevant sections and feel free to further research the parts most relevant to you. But importantly…. Do Something! Don’t procrastinate, instead get up and start planning. Get others involved and get started. Now is the time to make it happen…
Making it Happen: Product Development Action Plan...
Key stages include:
These stages are expanded and explained below...
Educate Yourself! - Clearly understand how product development can significantly benefit your business. Align it to business objectives
The best performing manufacturers are innovating and developing new products – fact! Clearly, day-to-day activities are critical for small manufacturers. However if you are to have any sort of medium or long term future and not be at the mercy of events, you’ve got to plan ahead. This is why product development is vital. Trading conditions are becoming tougher. What with globalisation, new entrants in the market and increasingly aggressive competitors, it is progressively more difficult to compete on price alone. You need to be able to offer real value to your customers.
Successful product development gives you that competitive advantage, for the long term. The business and commercial benefits are numerous. Quantify as best you can and match these to specifics in your business strategy. Objectives may include entering new markets, new products to compete at different levels in existing markets, diversification, increasing market share or taking on competitors with enhanced products which include new technology or functionality.
Gain commitment from Senior Management with a clear vision and plan
Product development can be a risky commercial activity. For senior managers leading small manufacturing businesses, it is critical to minimise this risk. What they will need to see is a plan that justifies the investment product development requires. The justification needs to be made by articulating how product development can be tailored to your business and how it can deliver real concrete benefits.
Start by being clear on a few key points. Who are the target market – who is the product aimed at? What benefits will customers expect and are these what they actually want? What is your position in the market? In addition, a clear understanding of the product development process and how it will work in your business, is the basis for the next stage.
Understand how a tailored product development process should apply to you
To stay competitive, thrive and prosper, small manufacturers need to get products to market quickly, rapidly moving through the development process at pace. The individual stages of the product development process are covered in the next few stages below. However, what designers and engineers actually need is a process which is clear yet robust, which is flexible yet relevant, such that it will be followed, and so produce successful products.
What’s more, the product development process needs to be fast-paced, with activities running concurrently where possible. Cross-functional teams from across the business should work towards a common goal, bringing in external help when necessary. The team should review progress at the end of each stage. Ask questions and perhaps approve collectively, to ensure you are still on track. A strong sense of leadership, together with discipline, help drive the process forward and assist it run smoothly.
Product Development Driven by Business Strategy
Every product developed or redesigned, should clearly contribute to a specific aim of the business, such as a new revenue steam, or reducing costs. In addition, to maximise the chances of product development success, small manufacturers need to understand the market and commercial environment. Investing some time in basic business analysis could save considerable amounts of effort later, as well as greatly increase the likelihood of achieving your aims. There are a range of questions listed in the main section to assist this.
Additionally, market research provides invaluable information and therefore confidence, prior to committing hard cash, time and resources to product development tasks. It reduces risks for small manufacturers who can ill afford to make big mistakes. Part of your market research will involve obtaining clear understanding of the competition. Possessing a clearer comprehension of your rivals upfront can pay dividends later. It will also help commercial and development decision making.
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