A product will undergoes several phases during its existence; from its conception throughout the withdrawn from the market. Each phase represents different challenges that need special attention. This process is usually referred as Product Lifecycle.
My work as a designer or engineer does not finish on the development phases, I also support clients in the New product introduction process and commercialization. The product lifecycle process that I follow is divided in 5 stages:
- Define (Research)
- Transfer (NPI)
- Scale up (Industrialization)
- Commercialize – (continuous improvements)
At this point there is almost no design work. The objective of this phase is to have a clear commercial and technical vision of what the product should accomplish. Most of the work in this phase is around technology scouting, Market or consumer research and commercial strategy.
During this phase we would plan and budget the development phase and ensure that the resources are in place to meet the commercial objectives.
This is the field where I conduct most of my work and it consist on materializing those objectives that were laid down in the definition phase. Most of the design and engineering work is conducted here and if done properly, there will be little to re design o improve on later phases.
I divide the development phase is 6 sub phases, with the objective of controlling the risks and increasing the opportunity of success.
You can read more about my Development process here:
Transfer (New product introduction- NPI)
During this phase of work, we will hand over the design authority (and responsibility) to the manufacturer. We will start producing the first batches and confirm that all the quality procedures are in place that will guarantee that the product will be made according the agreed specifications.
This phase could require the greatest investments on a product’s lifecycle, and if not planned and executed properly could have catastrophic effects. The complexity of making parts to the required quality is often underestimated, costs could increase quickly and tensions between partners and suppliers could become difficult to manage. My experience in planning and transferring products to manufacture has taught me that it is here, that attention to all details and quick reaction to problems is paramount.
A key part of this process is to find the right manufacturing partners that could share the commercial vision that the project requires.
Scale up – (Industrialization)
Once manufacturing processes are in place, then we would need to increase productivity and reduce costs without affecting quality. This sounds very simple, but the challenge is that if things go wrong, they can have a significant financial impact very quickly.
Here is where Lean Manufacturing and Six Sigma techniques are extremely useful and where a technical file and design history file become of great value as it could uncover potential failures if small changes are made to the design.
Finally the commercialization phase will bring user, market and other stakeholder’s feedback that would be incorporated into new product generation or improvements.
Commercialization could start form the NPI phase, but it is after the manufacturing processes are in place that the continuous improvement activates will be conducted.
New product introduction (NPI)
The process of designing and developing a new product does not finish with the issuing some drawings or approving a first sample. Introducing a new product or transferring it to manufacture is a mayor challenge that should not be underestimated.
I have worked in several industries in transferring designs into manufacturing and it is often the most expensive part of a product lifecycle, especially if is not well planned and if the quality requirements are not agreed at the outset.