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So how do you ‘do’ product development? What is the process and the stages small manufacturers need to go through to successfully develop their own products? Well, the truth is no ‘one size fits all’ process exists for product development. However, the good news is there are key stages, common themes and activities small manufacturers can do to maximise their chances of product development success.
What’s more they are tailorable and scalable to your circumstances. It will be your process, with your words and understood by your employees. A defined product development process with stages is a key component of the best performing manufacturing businesses.
A Simplified Product Development Process, Illustrated
Product Development Fundamentals – Considerations you need to be clear on:
Before you embark on your product development journey, it’s important to be clear on a few key points. Consider the questions below and try and answer them as succinctly as you can. Clarity will help focus and direct your product development activities.
Who is the product aimed at?
What benefits will customers expect?
Where will you position the product in the market?
Stages of the Product Development Process – Stepping Stones to Success
The product development process can be broken down into a series of stages, which will be covered in detail in a moment. However it is worth noting, a process made up of stages you then follow step-by-step, naturally comes across as linear. In addition there is a tendency to view each stage as having equal weight.
The reality however, is depending on the product, the organisation and indeed the industry, the stages vary in importance, weight and in the time it takes to undertake them. In addition, the process may be far from linear. The stages will probably overlap, run concurrently and sometimes loop back.
This variability is definitely true for small manufacturers. To illustrate this, an idea for a new product may be considered by an engineer. They then may very rapidly move the idea from a concept, to assemblies (embodiment design), through to detail design with component selection, along with ready-to-manufacture parts.
However, they may present this idea for review against criteria or indeed against competing designs. Changes may be recommended that require the concept to be redesigned, running through the development stages again. All of this may take place rapidly depending on the nature of the industry.
Another point worth mentioning is the need for reviews and approval gates between each stage. It is sensible to review the work undertaken during each stage before moving onto the next part of the development process. Reviews need only be informal, with a few people with different disciplines relevant to the project.
For small manufacturers, there need only be a discussion based around a check list of sensible, pertinent questions. Ultimately what you are trying to establish is ‘has the latest stage produced what you are after?’ - before you move on. Are the technical decisions sensible and adequately thought through? Has anything been forgotten? Are you still on track to achieve what you set out to? Is the product still on course to meet the criteria set out in the brief or specification at the start?
Review gates are like sanity checks that ensure the product stays on track and is heading in the desired direction. Importantly, they also mitigate risks.
Key Product Development Stages covered in detail below include….
· Product Development Driven by Business Strategy
· Specification and Requirements
· Concept Design
· Embodiment Design
· Detailed Design
· Engineering Design for Manufacture and Assembly
· Product Launch and Process Review
Product Development Stages Illustrated with an Engineering Product (courtesy of Vertex Product Development Inc.)
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