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. Product Research and Development for Small Manufacturers Research and Development (R&D): The Benefits for Small Manufacturers Essential Product Development for Engineers

Product Research and Development for Small Manufacturers

Research and Development (R&D): The Benefits for Small Manufacturers

Essential Product Development for Engineers

Product Research and Development (R&D): The Benefits for Small Manufacturers

Research and development or R&D, is routinely banded about as something positive all manufacturers should be doing. However, for small manufacturers preoccupied with day-to-day business, this is often easier said than done. The good news is there are things manufacturers can do to encourage and undertake R&D, and reap the medium and long term benefits it brings. But first, it’s probably worth re-familiarising ourselves with what we mean when we say R&D.

Research and development can include a wide range of activities, depending on the nature of your business. However, it is commonly agreed it involves the creation of new or novel technologies or techniques. In-turn, these feed into new products, processes or services.

The research element frequently encompasses investigation, experimentation and testing. Meanwhile development activities often involve transforming this into something tangible, practical and useful, through refinement and prototyping. New product development is itself an R&D activity. As such, many of the benefits are the same as those listed at the start of Product Development Essentials. In addition, R&D has some specific advantages:

Product Research and Development

Benefits of R&D

R&D offers a range of advantages for small manufacturers. These include:

  • Competitive advantage over your commercial rivals, through better products and processes in the medium and long term.
  • Unique products and services customers desire, which include new technologies, improved functions and enhanced processes.
  • Continued revenue streams in the future, for profit or reinvestment.
  • Future opportunities through discoveries, collaboration and advances.
  • Motivated Employees undertaking interesting varied work.


R&D Challenges for Small Manufacturers

Often R&D is perceived as a ‘nice-to-have’, alongside the core activities of the business which pay the bills, day-to-day. Indeed, there are real challenges for organisations who want to undertake R&D alongside business-as-usual tasks. These include:

  • It potentially diverts scarce resources, skills and knowledge away from day-to-day activities.
  • It can take a long time before the business may see a return on its investment.
  • It is risky with no guarantee of success.
  • It is costly, requiring funds at a time where often cash flow is a primary concern for small manufacturers.
  • It can be complex, with small manufacturers not being clear about how to undertake R&D, who to contact and how to integrate it into their business.


Product Research and Development

When not to undertake R&D

A few considerations should be noted about timing, before undertaking research and development:

  • R&D activities should not be on the critical path of defined projects, with hard deadlines. Instead technologies and processes should be quantified, proved, production-ready and known, before including them in fixed term business-as-usual projects. R&D by its nature is risky and is unpredictable, both in terms of time and results – the last thing you need on a project with fixed deliverables.

  • Likewise R&D tasks are not suitable for day-to-day business activities. Here, time is money, where productivity is critical and production schedules must be met. Clearly, R&D is not suitable for the same reasons as above.

Product Research and Development

Next... So how do you ‘do’ R&D? In-house, Outsourced and Collaborative R&D

Back to Essential Product Development  

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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