Product Criteria to Consider

Comprehensive Criteria is the Heart of Your Product Design

Establishing the product criteria is the most important single step in your development process.

This step forces all aspects of your project to be explored so there are no surprises later on. The complexity or field in which your product will be used will determine how involved this needs to be. 

This is the time to get all members of your team together to describe the product.

For the small inventor it may be just yourself, the Industrial Designer, and the Engineer.  In the case of a simple product it may even be yourself and the Engineer.

For larger projects in a corporate setting you should include: a designated Project Leader, and representatives from Industrial Design, Engineering, Quality / Regulatory, Operations, Legal, Sales, and Marketing.

It’s good to remember that if your product is to be used in the medical device field, this is a required element in the Design Procedure and will be subject to meeting FDA regulatory requirements

In any case, take your time and be as thorough as you can as time spent now will make the entire process much smoother.  You are not going to have all the answers at this stage so your product development group needs to have an open dialog.  Remember to document clearly and concisely.  This is useful for any project and in many cases required by the regulatory environment.

Here are 9 major items to include in your product criteria:

1. Product Description

What is the product and what is its intended use? Does it solve a particular problem? What is its intended market and who are its intended users?

2. Product Characteristics

What does it look like? What colors are intended? What size is it? Is it intended to be a stand-alone product, or part of a brand that has a defined product identity?

3. Features and Benefits

These include ergonomics, feel, and individual product features that will be important.

4. Use of the Product

This may be more encompassing than it sounds. Among a long list of considerations that need addressing are operating conditions, safeguards for use, technical specifications, operating conditions, compatibility with the environment, and many more.

Be sure to perform any needed risk assessment.

5. Market overview

In your market analysis determine the real market size, and how much share you can realistically get.

Accurate numbers here can drive product sophistication, investment costs and profit expectations. Performing a competitive analysis to see who is in the market and whether there may be issues with patent infringement is very important.

Consider how this will be sold, what expected product life is, and whether the product is a strategic fit for the company.

6. Regulatory Requirements

This can vary from relatively simple to very complex depending on the product. Consider if your product needs to meet requirements for GMP, ISO, FDA, UL, OSHA, AAMI, and potential others.

Medical devices will require a great deal of investigation, and remember if this is where you are heading your product development group should have already started complete documentation (frequently referred to as the Design History File).

General consumer product will be nowhere as involved but good documentation and making no assumptions can help the project from becoming derailed later

7. Manufacturing

Always consider if you are introducing new technology or manufacturing techniques, and whether effective quality systems are in place to support the complexity of the product. Is production done domestically, or offshore? – always a tough choice, as there are benefits and detractions to each.

8. Packaging

How are you presenting your product to the customer? How many in each package? How fragile is the product? How will the store display it? Does it have any foreign language requirements? Is it visually important to sales?  

There are lots of consideration here for a relatively simple sounding task. You need to remember that packaging is the face of the product to the customer.

9. Financial

This should be one of the main motivations. Realistic estimations of Cost of Goods Sold will include establishing targets for selling cost, manufacturing cost, and profit margin.

It is very easy for market pressures later on to derail a product so contingency plans for future cost down opportunities and preservation of margin.

Well-Documented Product Criteria Will Keep You On-Track

This effective documentation of the Product Criteria is your baseline. This is not written in stone but it should be your guideline through the whole process and it will be visited often and revised when needed.

If variation from it occurs, confirm that you are still heading in the right direction and whether any alterations require revisiting any and all areas. This one step will provide a continuing check step ensuring nothing is overlooked in the product development process.
Roy Melling – Partner

Roy joined Innovate in 2004, bringing with him a background in development of consumer electronics and health care products.

Whether bridging the gap between design and manufacturing or dealing with medical device compliance, Roy has extensive knowledge in the manufacturing end of product development, both domestically and overseas.

If you like, you can always connect with him directly on LinkedIn.


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