You’ve got a great product concept, engineers have bought into the idea, and the budget is approved. Now what?
During the discovery phase, your concept was born, user requirements were defined, and preliminary market research was completed. In Part 2 of our Product rescue series, we’re outlining the design phase. At the end of this phase, your product will have specification and design drawings that will be required for manufacturing. This is how the process looks:
For many companies, conceptual drawings start appearing from the day someone mentions a new product. Lots of us are visual people and having a sketch actually helps us during the discovery phase…there really isn’t anything wrong with that.
However, the conceptual drawing we’re referencing here is different. Once your user requirements are in and the preliminary discussions have been made…there needs to be an official conceptual drawing. This drawings addresses all of the foreseen requirements, marketing/branding, aesthetics, and include the major components. Once the discovery team agrees on a conceptual drawing, it should be shared with the design team along with the user requirements.
What’s critical to quality?
Conceptual drawing in hand, the technical design team (engineers) must match the product features with the required price point to determine initial feasibility. That custom red carbon fiber material your marketing team mocked up in Photoshop might look great, but does it blow the budget?
Understanding what’s REALLY required and where there might be some wiggle room, is a major priority at the step in the process.
Get a schedule
Once you have a design and understand your priorities, you’re ready to bring in the engineers to develop the Design specifications & drawings. Depending on your business size and whether you decide to outsource this portion (we can do it for you), you may have limited involvement in this segment. To give you an idea of our process (this is pretty standard), we start with a family tree:
The family tree breaks the product down into individual components/tasks. This allows us to understand the scope of work and how to delegate the workload among the various teams.
Once the family tree is laid out, a Gantt chart is created. Below is an over-simplified example:
The Gantt chart allows us to create a schedule for the design documentation development. It helps us understand where our resources should be be placed, when to plan for the next steps, and how each component’s schedule interacts with the others.
Throughout the documentation development schedule, the engineering team will work together to deliver final specifications. During the process, obstacles may arise such as sourcing issues, size conflicts, etc. The final specs should address all of those challenges and offer resolutions.
The specification and design drawings are the final step in the design phase before prototyping.
This segment of the product development process is very tedious and really provides the blueprints for the entire pipeline. While we have laid out an overview of our process, not every company manages their pipeline in the same manner. Many times, issues arise and these are a few of the ones we run into most often:
-What’s first? Because the discovery phase tends to be very loosely structured, that can sometimes spill into the design phase. Many companies skip the formalities and scheduling to jump right into documentation and final specs. Without a structured process, the opportunities for error increase exponentially and the issues that we find during our process may be overlooked until much farther down the road during production.
-What’s most important? And don’t ask the engineers! Some companies let marketing handle the discovery phase and then hand it over to the engineers to blindly develop the specs. This creates a big problem when they run into a situation where they have to choose between meeting a size requirement or doubling the budget….and the customer is never consulted. Keep your customers in the loop, put them on speed dial, schedule weekly calls, however you want to do it…but don’t make those decisions in a vacuum.
-Yea, but does it work? Occasionally, we find companies that take things to the opposite extreme with planning and processes. They become so rigidly segmented that the various teams don’t develop a plan to ensure that their individual components will interface with each other. Everyone assumes how the other parts will function…and once it’s assembled…it doesn’t work. We mitigate this risk by creating a very simple document that we call “the interface document.” This is applicable for mechanical/electronic assemblies, as well as software. Each team has an interface document that explicitly defines the format of the inputs they will be receiving – maybe that’s HDMI, excel document, or an 1/8″ diameter pin. The document also clearly defines what the output needs to be. How they get from input to output is up to them, but everyone in the pipeline understands what the expectations are.
The good news
If just reading this post has your overwhelmed, there is another way. Not every company is equipped to handle the design phase, much less the entire product development process. Ehren-Haus specializes in picking up where we’re needed and supporting you throughout the product development with methodical, trusted processes. Whether you’re working on a new medical device or retail display, we have the experience and expertise to make your concept a reality. Want to learn more? Let’s talk about your ideas.
//Keep an eye out next week for part 3: Prototyping//
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