Product development is about bringing a product idea to market.
Although product development differs by industry, it starts with an idea and moves through critical process stages that ensure even very complex products follow a realistic and successful path to market.
During the last three decades, we have successfully developed for our clients, over 750+ physical products from idea through to volume manufacturing using a predictable process.
Below is an example of our typical product development process template. It includes:
- Typical timeline to reach volume production
- Key activities in each stage of product development
- Prototype Modelling and Testing activities in each stage
- Controlled release to Manufacturing with production-ready drawings
The Four Stages of our New Product Development Process
Implementing a process-oriented discipline without losing the flexibility is critical to success. As many aspects of product development are unpredictable, frequent testing to validate your assumptions minimizes risks, maximizes your budget, and keeps the user experience top of mind as the product moves through predictable schedules and deliverables.
Design 1st delivers world class services that mitigate risk and provide accurate, reliable, and repeatable results using our proven four-step process.
Explore the details in each phase of our process below:
Phase 1: Concept Design
Concept design is the most important phase in any product development project. Making the wrong decisions here or spending too much time iterating potential product concepts can be costly. To get it right, we follow a structured design-for-users and design-for-manufacturing matrix approach that identifies key acceptance, feature and feasibility risks and lays out the mechanical, electronics and software architectures. Identified high risk elements are tested and reviewed before deciding on the final product solution to develop.
The output is a finalized product concept ready for build and test.
Phase 2: Detailed Engineering
Once a product concept has been finalized, we complete a ‘ready for manufacturing’ fully defined product specification that provides the necessary information to:
- Build the ALPHA product prototype and
- Allow third party manufacturers to quote and deliver.
This stage includes creating product housing and mechanism parts in 3D CAD geometry, hardware and firmware design including building rapid prototype bench models of sub systems and running simulations to validate key design assumptions and tolerances.
From stand-alone to connected products, this stage includes the housing design, custom electronics component selection, schematics design and PCB layout. Custom firmware coding for the microprocessors and programable chips is also built to run the product interface and communicate with a variety of radios to other devices, smartphones, and the internet.
The output is 3D CAD geometry and documentation to produce the very first ALPHA pre-production prototype unit with quick prototype suppliers.
Phase 3: Prototype and Test:
This first ALPHA prototype enables the design and engineering team to check the hundreds of decisions made on the product design stage and fine-tune the product specifications for manufacturing, including any required regulatory testing. Here is where the path to production begins to speed up.
We take the pre-production prototype files and produce a fully functioning product that replicates the final manufacturing process and allows all stakeholders from client to customer to manufacturer to review, comment and refine the design.
This prototype is then put through a range of testing, validation, and fine-tuning. The result is an “alpha prototype” ready for controlled user testing, product acceptance feedback and the fully defined product now makes it possible to get formal quotes from third-party partners in manufacturing.
One important output is a finalized BOM (bill-of-materials) and the creation of manufacturing-ready drawings for volume production. These formal drawings and 3D CAD geometry files must be release managed with all updates to any information going to third parties strictly controlled in a sequential release number process.
The process is two steps:
- The first step is control of the pre-production documentation and when all parts and assemblies are approved
- The second step is the production-ready bill of materials and documents to be used for the commercial supply contracts and first pilot run build of general availability (GA) product
Phase 4: Manufacturing Setup:
Setting up manufacturing really starts in the concept design stage and carries through to the Detailed Engineering and Prototype stages. The attention to detail on a part by part decision basis is critical. It is not enough to transfer the production-ready design files to the manufacturing partner and hit go on volume production.
Suppliers must review, revise and agree to produce all parts and assemblies to the quality of the design requirements.
A quality control process must be implemented and revised as production issues are identified and resolved, much like the release control process for the transfer of part files to the suppliers is handled.
There are three types of part suppliers:
- The custom parts like injection-molded housings
- Off-the-shelf (OTS) parts like screws
- Custom off the shelf parts (COTS) where the design team must work with a part supplier to modify an existing component used in other products that are customized to the design teams needs. An example of a COTS part would be a display module with a bezel lens covering the top.
The COTS parts are the riskiest as the third party supplier may discontinue supply and create a shortage delay issue for manufacturing.
The transfer to manufacturing has 4 steps:
Step 1: Review the design documentation and get agreement on all parts and assemblies.
Step 2: Have the manufacturer produce sample parts for approval by the design team with any revisions to the specification documents
Step 3: Ordering parts and running a small volume of product (PILOT RUN) to verify the process and quality of the product coming off the assembly line.
These pilot-run units may be used for early sales or for marketing Beta trial testing depending on the complexity of the product and quality of the production process. Minor revisions to the design files are made from the feedback and learning the business team, design team, and manufacturing team find during the pilot run build and testing.
Step 4: Ordering all parts and the first official production product build which ends with General Availability (GA) product ready to ship to the target consumers.
Design 1st delivers world-class services that mitigate risk and provide accurate, reliable, and repeatable results using this proven four-step process. Our process provides reliability and consistency at every stage to ensure your success in the market.
We understand your world.
Book a project review consultation to learn how our process can work for you.
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The Design 1st team helps startups and enterprise develop new products for volume manufacturing.