Product development: it's a process, not an event

24th August 2017

Product development: it's a process, not an event

If you read some accounts of product development, you’ll come away convinced that all you need to guarantee success are a few impressive images and a 3D print of a design concept with no manufacturing detail – and the world will beat a path to your door. This is like suggesting that all you need do to get fit is put on some running shoes. It is a good start, but the serious work hasn’t even begun…

Getting a new product to market does not need to be a long and difficult process, but it does take time, and you cannot afford to cut corners if you want your new idea to be a success. Creating and marketing a new product will typically involve several stages, including research and concept design; technical development; prototyping and testing (usually in several phases); production data; manufacturing tooling and trials (involving adjustments and refinement); regulatory approvals; graphics for packaging, instructions, etc; marketing and promotion, including social media; and commercial arrangements for distribution, sale and customer support.

The early stages of the process deliver exciting concept designs and even preliminary 3D printed models that can look deceptively complete. Once you add the technical development phase, with fully detailed CAD designs ready for prototyping, you have a product that looks like it is ready to sell. This is the danger point. This is when the inexperienced entrepreneur will maybe make one quick prototype and rush the product to market without thorough testing and production development.

Everyone wants to shorten the process to get to market sooner and spend less money, but short circuiting the process results, at best, in a product that never reaches its market potential and, at worst, in a commercial disaster. In contrast, the benefits of thorough product development are clearly illustrated by the approach adopted by Dyson, who built and tested over five thousand prototypes during the development of the original cyclone vacuum cleaner. Most projects we’ve been involved in only require several prototype stages, but tremendous attention to detail has clearly done Dyson no commercial harm.

When you are developing a new product, particularly if you are doing it for the first time, the critical issues to consider are:

  • Getting a concept design and a 3D print made is only the beginning of the process.
  • Most new products will require multiple prototype stages to refine the design and make it suitable for sale – make sure you’ve allowed time and money for this.
  • Detailed testing cannot be avoided if you want to be successful – it must be done thoroughly and consider every possible situation that your new product will encounter.
  • Always allow time and money for tooling adjustments before you deliver anything to a customer, particularly for plastic moulded products. These will not only ensure correct function, but maximise product quality.
  • Make sure you allow time for things to go wrong and get fixed. As someone once said, “If you’re not prepared to make mistakes, you’ll never make anything”.

If you would like to know more about the product development process and how to plan for success, contact Mike Ayre on 012325 833785 or send him an email

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