Product Development: Building From the Ground Up

December 3rd, 2014:

As outlined in my last article the initial steps are critical to the success of any new product.  Now that you have cleared all the initial hurdles of validating your idea, devising a strategy for your product and business the real fun can start.  Focused engineering and design work on your product should now be the main focus. 

What are the main goals of phase 1 and 2 in the product development process?  In a word, concepts!  Now is the time to develop many viable concepts that will allow your products to achieve its core functions.  Think about how many different mechanisms or systems will allow you to achieve the core functions and then begin to rank these concepts.  When ranking and selecting these ideas for a prototype build you should devise a clear criteria so they can all be evaluated on a level playing field.  This criteria should include product performance, potential cost, viability for manufacturing and others.  It often helps to review your product/business strategy plan and use this to develop the ranking criteria for your concepts.  Once you are confident in the criteria you can begin weeding out the concepts that won’t help your product achieve its goals.  We normally select 2-3 concepts for prototype development.

These early prototypes are usually considered “proof of concept” and the main goal is, as the name states, a rough and relatively low cost way to prove the core function of the concept.  Building a few different concepts and trying them in real world applications is normally pivotal in the future design of the product.  This is an ideal stage in the process to begin collecting limited feedback from potential users.  These semi-functional prototypes can actually be tested by a core group of leaders within your company or personal network to hopefully further validate the design direction and necessary features.  The other main goal is to identify the major challenges or flaws the product may have.  Once you have clear feedback it is time to begin selecting which concepts will be refined and which will be shelved.

The next push is the design and engineering refinement leading to the production of an Alpha prototype.  This will be the first real test of your product as a fully functioning system.  I’ll cover this and more in the next installment, stay tuned!

Corey Smigelski, General Manager Goddard Design and Engineering