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Product Development Process and Stages

Essential Product Development for Engineers

Product Development Process and Stages

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?

  • Who is your target market?
  • Who do you hope will purchase your product?
  • How likely is it they will?
  • How do you know there is latent demand there?


What benefits will customers expect?

  • Your target customers will purchase your new product to obtain benefits for themselves, as end users.
  • What specific customer needs and demands will you meet?
  • Can you list the benefits? How do you know this is what customers want?


Where will you position the product in the market?

  • Where will your product sit, compared to your competitors?
  • How will it compare price-wise – lower end of the market, middle or highly-priced? Linked to this, quality-wise where is your product positioned and why?
  • What are your margins predicted to be?

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.)

Product Development Process

Next... Product Development Driven by Business Strategy and Analysis

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?

Does your firm have a clear product development process, with a number of new products released to date? ...Or alternatively, do you think bread and butter production engineering is really what matters? Tell us about your product development experiences...

Share your story...and receive a FREE copy of our report 'Helping Your Manufacturing Business Thrive'...

PS: Feel free to name-drop your firm! There's nothing wrong with a bit of free publicity!

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