Peter Heuss, P.Eng.
Co-Founder, Berlin KraftWorks Inc.
I need to start this post with the admission that I am a mechanical engineer and I’ve been as guilty of this as most. I’ve had a good career that has included a fair amount of component and system design and I have learned my lesson; I just wish that I could have learned the lesson sooner.
Designing a new product takes a great amount of creativity and ingenuity. A designer, or team of designers, will develop great new product ideas, often under very short time frames, using what is quick and convenient. And these first samples can be amazing. But making a small number of units is not production.
Taking that prototype into production requires a significant amount of additional input.
The problem often is that we designers (this is where I’m guilty as well) are smart people and believe we can solve all the problems. If we don’t know something, of course we can learn it. I’ve heard many designers say that they want to have the journey, to learn as they develop the product. There’s a personal pride in being able to deliver a final working product. BUT, there’s no way that any one person, or team, can have all the experience or current knowledge to adequately plan and design for all of the factors that go into successful production.
When planning for production, every aspect of the design has to be questioned and weighed against producing in the required volumes, at that right time, and at the right price. It has been my experience that one of the major considerations that gets ignored is that, in production, manufacturing won’t be done by the design team. Everything must be available and go together as simply as possible, the same way every time. The end product can’t need to be ‘tweaked’.
There will be long list of stakeholders in production, and they all need to have a say to make the product a success. The design team needs to understand:
And the list goes on.
To successfully plan and execute taking a product into production any team is going to have solicit information from elsewhere. There is nothing wrong with asking what will be required, or for bringing in outside resources to provide all of the specialty functions that are only required during NPI.
The right time to start asking for help is from the start. The earlier you get input, the quicker you have a viable production plan.
The team that developed the product are going to be smart people and could likely learn everything required (given enough time and resources). However, that is very rarely the right answer for a company trying to launch a new product and make a profit.