Developing a new product can be a daunting experience for an inventor or entrepreneur. With statistics revealing low success rates of new products the process can be nerve-wracking especially during the “fuzzy front-end” phase where so many questions must be answered. Partnering with a consultant that understands the ins and outs of the Product Development Process can provide a smoother progression for development that results in a better product solution that meets the specific product criteria.
Below are the typical stages of new product development at SIGMADESIGN. These phases are part of the basic, linear continuum for getting a product from concept through production. This is the basic process, not a complete list of services provided. Our services change according to the needs of both the client and the specific project.
Looking into details of the product design phase illustrates how using a well-structured approach can help achieve the desired results in a timely manner to maximize a client’s return on investment. A structured planning and tracking approach is used at SIGMADESIGN for substantial product design and development projects. Smaller projects are often able to side step a more structured approach because there are not as many moving parts, but for large development projects, there are many benefits to this approach. Some of these are outlined below.
A structured approach helps clarify and align priorities and expectations between the client and our team. It improves focus and efficiency by keeping the project team aligned throughout the project. It also, communicates project status, and guides planning needed within the client’s own organization. Finally, a structured approach can significantly reduce risk by assuring that investments of time and money do not get out of line with the expected rate of accomplishment.
A product development process usually involves three major phases, each of which can be broken into smaller segments, depending on the complexity of the project. In this general discussion, we’ll refer to them as Requirements & Architecture, Product Design, Test & Document phases.
The Requirements and Architecture phase is used to clarify and confirm explicit objectives and deliverables for the project, and to understand or “prove” feasibility of a critical core technical element. This phase usually involves roughing out a design at a high level, often referred to as an architectural level. Here Industrial Designers and Engineers aim for elevated concepts and worry about the finer details later. Optimization at this level focuses on global performance and design trade-offs. Reviewing the design trade-offs in this early stage, the team can help client’s understand how the design variables affect the product performance.
The Product Design phase involves detailing the design to the part level. Considerations for cost, manufacturing process are factored into the design in addition to all the product requirements developed in the first phase. It is in this phase that our philosophy of prototype early and prototype often is put to good use. We employ all forms prototyping, ranging from rapid additive techniques to in house breadboard level electronics. These are used to develop and confirm understanding of form, fit, and function at a detailed level. This helps the client and designers understand how all the parts need to work together to make a reliably functioning product. Many basic “design for manufacturability” attributes are also refined and confirmed through this early prototyping.
The Test & Document phases include finalizing the design details and generating documentation sufficient for volume manufacturing. In these phases, careful account is taken of cost drivers and manufacturing capabilities appropriate for the expected volumes and the product type. These phases may also involve rigorous testing and validation of products that have been produced by the intended manufacturing process before the client introduces the product to market.
Optimization is the general goal at each of these development phases. There will often be some push and pull as the concept moves through development and a balance is achieved between desirable but incompatible product features. Having the support of a multi-disciplinary team that can achieve full design exploration, yet assess the product concept will lead to the ultimate successful design.