As mentioned in the first part of this post, doing a poor job with your process can cost you both money and time, or even stop you from getting to market in a timely manner. The outline below can serve as a comprehensive process outline that you can flesh out with your own product details and requirements.
It may feel like certain phases are not necessary for the specific product you are working on. However, don’t immediately disregard any of these phases until you have explored them to see if there is any value added by their inclusion.
1. Project Initiation Phase
A. Opportunity Analysis
You have your idea and now you need to begin to develop some of the top level project information to help prove the viability of the idea.
Start by asking:
- What do you want the product to do?
- Who are your target market and users?
- How is the product to be used?
- Does it have its own unique identity or is it part of an existing portfolio?
- If it is part of a portfolio, is it really a strategic fit into the company?
- Does the financial outline meet expectations?
If some of your initial answers don’t provide a clear path, revisit them again later to find more clarity..
B. Establishing the Product Criteria
Now we get into the heart of the process. This sets the direction for entire project, and being as thorough as possible will make the entire process go much smoother.
Your team will not have all the answers at this stage so consider the documentation a work in process. Expect the unexpected and be ready for re-evaluation and resolution.
The Opportunity Analysis was the basis for the project and now the fine details need to be discussed and documented. Your development team should be focused on:
- Product Descriptions
- Features and Benefits
- Use of the Product
- Market overview.
- Regulatory Requirements and Risk Analysis
- Financial Analysis.
Different projects may have more or less required documentation for effective identification of the Product Criteria, but in any case be thorough.
This will be the checklist through the entire project. It must be clear, concise, and have all involved agree that what has been identified are key points and anything that changes that direction needs to be examined.
C. Development Plan
Any project needs clear accountability, and the Development Plan clearly spells out who is going to do what and when.
Your product development team will formalize the project objective based on the criteria, assign resources, define the initial timeline, and identify project constraints.
2. Design Development Phase
A. Initial Design
The Project Ideas are about to come to life.
The concept will be translated into an initial database that can be used for Industrial Design development and refinement, prototype and concept testing, and initial risk assessment.
With evaluations in hand the team needs to perform a first design review at this point. This may be an informal meeting, or a formal review depending on the product.
B. Detail Design
Based on evaluation of the Initial Design the CAD database is refined and a next iteration of prototype can be created if desired.
At this stage you need to confirm that the design meets the needs of the end user.
Procedures and Specifications should be developed, Design Validation and Verification needs to be performed, and initial manufacturing sources need to identified. Before release for tooling a second design review should be performed and all appropriate documentations and sign-offs must been done.
C. Tool Building
It’s time for finalizing the design and drawings and preparing release packages.
Identify all your manufacturers, complete the specifications, and soon enough you will have actual parts in your hands.
3. Product Validation and Release
A. Product Validation
This is the insurance that the product meets all performance and manufacturing requirements and nothing has strayed.
Component and manufacturing testing and validations are completed. Depending on your product, the Product Validation phase can range between a simple sign off to a very formal documented process that may take months to complete to meet regulatory requirements.
B. Product Release
Your marketing and sales plans need to be ready for implementation as the product is ready for market place.
Be prepared to sign off on some form of Design Transfer that gives the OK to go forward with unrestricted manufacturing and sales.
Similar to the Product Validation it can range from a simple sign off to a formal document that is confirms multi-functional agreement that the product is ready to release.
Finding the Balance
A strong product development process is not just a simple formula, but rather a well-developed set of exploration and questioning. By exploring the complexities of your product as a whole, from soup to nuts, a process such as the one described above can ensure a higher probability of success and overall user happiness for your finished product.
If you have thoughts, ideas or questions on this topic, I’d enjoy talking with you and sharing a discussion. The best way to reach me is by email on LinkedIn.
I look forward to connecting with you.
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.