The development of new products has always been a critical factor to achieve success in business. In the 1990s all efforts were focused on reducing the manufacturing cycle and implementing flexible production systems, the 2000s have been accompanied by a change of perspective and a concern for both the process of design and development of new products.
Designing and manufacturing a product may seem like a daunting task, but if you know the basic steps and the required phases, it will be much easier. This process involves the realization of a complex set of activities, in which most of the functional areas of the organization must intervene.
Generally, the design and development of a product is a process that can be divided into ten consecutive steps that we will further explain in this article.
1.- Identification of opportunities
In the first phase, information is obtained on the needs and demands of the market, identifying existing opportunities, possible movements and reactions of the competition, technical possibilities and manufacturing requirements. This information is combined to establish the architecture of the new product. During this phase the design of the concept is fixed, the target markets are selected, the level of performance, the necessary resources and the foreseeable financial impact of the new product is determined.
Among the primary sources of ideas for this process we can point out the following:
– Clients: In a competitive environment where the market plays a prominent role it seems evident that the customer must play an active role in the planning of design and development of new products. The company must have adequate communication channels so that the client can contribute their ideas to the design and development process.
– Engineers and designers: Remember, not all ideas can come from the market, since in that case there would be no “radical innovations” or new products. Therefore, an expert R&D team is essential. Only the staff of the R & D department can know the latest technological advances that can lead to new innovative products.
– Competitors: On many occasions new products arise from ideas of the competition that the company adapts as theirs, performing a process of creative imitation, that is, improving the competitive product without losing its initial design.
– Senior management and employees of the company: This source of ideas is often despised by those in charge of the design process and is often one of the most effective sources. Given that the employees of the organization are those who know best the existing production processes, as well as the real characteristics of the products manufactured.
- – Evaluation and Selection
In the second phase, those ideas that have the greatest chance of success are selected. This evaluation process involves an analysis of the viability of the product from different points of view:
– Commercial viability: Consists of analysis of the market for that product.
– Economic feasibility: A cost-benefit analysis is carried out to estimate if that product will provide an adequate profit margin or not. This requires taking into account its estimated cost of production, as well as the price at which it would be sold.
– Technical viability: It is necessary to verify that the company has adequate technical and technological capacity for the serial production of the product.
3.- Conceptualization of the product.
In this third phase, most of the conceptual design and product development activities are carried out. At this point, you should start with the brainstorming sessions (storm or brainstorm) and outline your ideas. Do not worry if the drawings are not pretty; you’re just trying to see if the concepts could work or if some obvious flaw appears.
You may need to find someone specialized in product design or industrial design to help you.
Once you have at least the outline of a good idea for the new product, you will then want to have the design elaborated with a little more detail.
A designer will be able to pose a basic 3D design on CAD softwares that are detailed enough to ensure that the idea will work, but not so detailed that it consumes more than a couple of hours to complete the render.
Once the basic design gets approved and you are ready with a solid conceptual model, it is time to devote your time to develop the details.
- – Design and Engineering of the product
The designer will now create complete 3D details of all the parts, solve the design problems, create the assembly and parts drawings for each part.
At this stage you must consider the following problems and find a resolution to them before entering the production phase:
– Durability: How long lasting and strong your product should be. The durability of the product broadly depends on its usage. Make a list of the ways you know or believe your customers will use the product for. Analyze the product’s usage over the sale price to understand its quality and longevity.
– Complexity: Think about the factoring of the product. The complexity of manufacturing the whole product or certain parts play an important role in the designing process. Analyze your budget and workforce before you finalize any design, or you may have to face losses due to long production time and substantial production cost.
– Material: Dedicate some time in research about the material required to bring life to your product design. Materials used should be selected carefully as it not only affects your budget and production time but also helps in building excellent brand value and earning loyal customers.
This phase is completed when all the problems have been resolved and we have a complete set of plans.
- -Create 3D Physical Prototype
In this phase, you need to start creating 3D physical prototypes. For this, CAD technology is very useful, that is, the computer-aided design, which allows us to easily modify the design by simply modifying a series of numerical parameters.
This can uncover any hidden issues or potential risks that weren’t clear from the product design itself. In short, this phase gives a physical presence to your product, formatted and manufactured by a computer-aided system.
Traditionally for the manufacture of prototypes, there was a team specialized in translating the data supplied by the designers into a physical model. This process was very laborious, thus delaying to a large extent the launch date of the new product.
With the emergence of 3d printing/Rapid Prototyping, the panorama changed completely. This technique allows building prototypes directly from the data generated by CAD, in a matter of hours.
- – Prototype Testing
This phase will allow us to confirm the strengths and weaknesses of the design, by carrying out various tests on the functionality and resistance of the product.
Remember, tests are a very important part of the product design and should not be overlooked. The process can be as simple as having a couple of people who use the product thoroughly and give you feedback or as complicated as sending it to an analysis laboratory, for a thorough test conducted by professionals.
Each country, each market and each industry have different quality standards and tests that the product must pass; it is important that you do not skip this stage.
It is also important that you have the product tested by someone who has not been involved in the design process, even if it is a friend. Someone who has not participated in the design will give a less biased opinion and you can also see any difficulty in the usage of the product.
- – Manufacturing and Assembly
Once you are through with the prototype testing, the next step in the design process is the manufacture of the product, in this step you or your designer must find the appropriate manufacturing facilities to create the product.
Also, focus on a simplified assembly process. It reduces the manufacturing cycle and improves the quality of the product.
While you make sure that the manufacturer provides you with cost-effective and timely delivery, do not compromise on quality, as using ineffective materials in manufacturing and assembling will eventually affect your sales negatively.
- – Feedback and Re-testing
Now your product is ready for rigorous test sessions. After the manufacturing and assembling of a product, it is time to undertake various methods of finalizing the quality of your product. The best possible way to do so is by distributing product among groups of friends and take genuine feedback for the same. But to make sure you deliver out the best quality product in the market be open to free and genuine criticism. It will allow further development and improvement of your product in a sensible way. Smart batch production techniques like vacuum casting can be used to produce small quantities of the product.
- – Re-visiting Product Manufacturing
By now you should overcome all the serious obstructions in the process of product manufacturing, but you should still be open to any further improvements or developments. Never shy away from giving time to get your product right. Address the unforeseen problems, if any and consider going back to the product manufacturing, and make important improvements.
- – Final Product Development
Your product has now successfully climbed up from the concept stage to a polished final product stage. Now it’s time to focus on the practical side of handing over your product to the end consumer and make the best out of your marketing plans. The more your products sell and impress your customers, the more you get to invest in the manufacturing of future batches eventually leading you to a successful business.
Every product has to fulfill several objectives: to work as per the wishes of the client, to be easy to assemble, to maintain and repair, to prove, to dispose of it and many others. Those companies that want to succeed must consider all these objectives from the early stages of the design and development process.
It is always better to invest time in designing the product thoroughly and testing it among those who are among your target audience than to go ahead with the idea that seems wonderful and fail miserably, having lost time, money and energy.