Many entrepreneurs and inventors have experienced the rush of dreaming up the “big one”. A product idea that makes sense! They throw their passion behind it and bring it forward to a functioning prototype. This is exhilarating progress but it’s the next step between prototyping and creating a market-ready product that can be fatal. The ingredient that gets missed is called commercialization.
Commercialization is the process that evaluates an inventor’s idea and filters it through the lens of high volume manufactured product that keeps the key desired functionality. Done right, the final product should be manufactured at lowest cost and can be launched quickly with the high quality required to give the business team a problem-free product to sell. Commercialization also involves planning and executing an effective supply chain strategy to manage relationships.
Here are some questions that every hardware inventor will want an answer to:
• How do I design my product for lowest cost and keep the important functions?
• What materials and finishes do I use to get the product to look great as well as get the product life I am looking for? Can I get both or do I have to choose?
• How do I ensure the quality of my product will keep defects and returns low?
• Where do I find and buy off-the-shelf parts for the lowest cost?
• What is involved in getting product to my customers and in good working order?
• Who do I trust when I am making these decisions?
With no guidance, the temptation is to take your design and a prototype that “works” then “draw it up and find a manufacturer for production.” This approach is common and it can have great short-term perceived benefits. However, it has a long history of exposing fatal vulnerabilities and creates a much higher risk of an ultimate project failure in the marketplace. Ask people who have had a product fail; one of the most frequent answers is “the product had problems and we had a lot of returns”.
To move through commercialization successfully, careful attention should be paid to:
(1) Quality-based Design Decisions
(2) Total Product Cost (at the design architect stage)
(3) OTS (Off-The-Shelf) Part Use and Documentation Control (The Product File)
QUALITY When you are designing a product prototype that “works” and is built by skilled designers and engineers, the hours spent getting it to work ensure that it will meet all of the performance goals. When you are designing a product to be built in a mass production setting and there are hundreds and thousands being made at once, it takes a very experienced design and engineering team to ensure the product does not have manufacturability shortcomings such as parts not fitting, failure of components, materials that wear out too fast and many other common mistakes that lead to field defects and unhappy customers. When done effectively the design needs to be robust enough to be built efficiently in a mass production environment and still meet aesthetic and performance expectations of users.
COST 60% of a product’s cost is determined upfront and locked in by the product architects. Ignoring the realities of volume manufacturing is a common mistake. Design for manufacturability can significantly decrease the number of parts, types of materials and multiple parts can be combined to decrease the number of parts to be produced. Customization of parts is important for a good design process and the careful mix of custom and existing parts creates the best recipe for lowest overall product cost. If the process is not followed issues show up later on and trying to change the design after it reaches production wastes valuable resources, adds to the overall project cost and creates more churn, in product and process continuity both in the factory and in the field with the customer.
DESIGN and Off-the-Shelf PARTS Creating new part designs is riskier than using existing parts in a product. Designers with few constraints tend to “optimize” a product for aesthetics and functionality and then make the parts fit into “the” new architecture. Custom technical parts come with cost and availability challenges. In today’s economy it is hard to avoid unique custom aesthetic and functional parts to meet customer expectations however, a careful plan to start with OTS (Off-The-Shelf) parts and make very effective use of any custom parts will reduce overall project cost.
PUT A COMMERCIALIZATION EXPERT ON YOUR DESIGN TEAM
To reduce time to market and development cost, a design team can start with a thorough search and selection of potential OTS Parts and then the product is literally designed with the OTS parts in mind to create concepts around ‘what is possible’. This is a tough but rewarding challenge for the artists and engineers who must work together to sift through the options to find a competitive and engaging product solution that meets the product marketing and quality targets. Using as many OTS parts and customized OTS parts as possible is a key element of commercialization to achieve quality, cost targets and the fastest time-to-market.
Design 1st has in-house experts in commercialization that work directly with the design team to provide navigation throughout the product architecture configuration stage. They will help you to find “good fit” suppliers and a manufacturer for your product, both local and abroad. This approach is a natural fit for clients looking to transition their concept prototype to the market. This year Design 1st has played a pivotal role in the commercialization of more than a dozen start-up clients. Here are a few examples of clients that have launched after using our commercialization and market-readiness services:
Heatstone – DIY Heated Patio Stones
NorthVu – HD Digital TV Antenna
HandSandal – Handheld Hygiene Device
PowerPress – Bio-mechanical Bench press innovation
The Product File - contains hundreds of pages of documentation necessary to define and manage a product in today’s manufacturing environment. Design 1st clients rely on our commercialization team to act as technical experts in supplier discussions to facilitate clear information capture and transfer. Design 1st will create and provide you with a manufacturing-ready organized and transportable ‘Product File’.
To learn more about Commercialization, give Design 1st a call and talk with Dave Ingram 613.235.1004 x231 and visit our website http://www.design1st.com/Design-Services/commercializing-services.html
By Kevin J. Bailey
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