Peter Heuss, P.Eng.
Co-Founder, Berlin KraftWorks Inc.
New Product Introduction (NPI), bringing a new idea to market, is often a much more complex process than expected. In previous blogs, I’ve talked about aspects of taking a product into production like writing a business plan, design for supply chain and design for assembly. The common thread is that this is a multi-disciplinary process. There are lots of stakeholders and to have a successful product, all of the stakeholders must be considered throughout.
The ultimate stakeholder of course, is the customer. This is something that many of us will forget, it’s natural that the engineers, designers, and craftsmen who developed an idea will take pride in their work. But, if customers aren’t willing to buy your product, you don’t have a product.
Taking your product into production can often be the first point where the project becomes truly multi-disciplinary. And I don’t mean different types of engineering. NPI is the first time that all the groups in a company must be involved. It’s good practice to include all the stakeholders during ideation and design, that will allow a company to develop better products quicker. But when taking an idea into production, involving everyone in the company is critical.
There are a lot of different stakeholders that have a wide array of skill sets (and opinions) and they all need to effectively contribute. finance, sales and marketing, purchasing, logistics, assembly, service, QA/QC all have input to a successful product and must be part of the development process.
Managing all of the stakeholders means that the one key role in the NPI process will be the project manager. They may not have that title, but someone needs to consider the entire cross-functional scope of the project while balancing budget, timeline, as well as the needs and capabilities of all of the stakeholders. This is not a skill set that everyone has and randomly assigning the role to part of the team, or worse, dividing the project management responsibilities across the team, can severely jeopardize the project.
Early stage companies may not have the multi-disciplinary staff or experience required for a NPI project. Engineers will rarely be good at sourcing, there may not be a purchasing department yet, or they may not have experience with negotiating longer term volume-based supply contracts. The list goes on. NPI is one point where a company should not try to learn by trying.
NPI is time sensitive and expensive. It is also not a core function, most companies don’t continually develop products, NPI will be an occasional activity and not something that requires full time staff (and the associated long term cost). Finding external support for missing experience is not a failing, but often the best way to effectively get to the company’s real goal, to get that new product into production.
An external firm may be the best option for project management where experienced NPI people can provide support just for the duration of the project. Providing guidance on requirements and timing they can also assist in building internal teams and processes to support production shortening the overall development time and helping to set the company up for success.
NPI is all about getting your concept to market as quickly and effectively as possible. For most companies, NPI will be a periodic necessity, and not a core function. Therefore, it is important to consider the current team and establish if there is already a team member who can take on the critical role of project manager for this new product. If not, finding budget to bring on an external firm who can manage the NPI process and allow the team to focus on what they know best – the product and its potential customer – can save money, time, and get that product into production much more efficiently.
On June 29th, BKW's, Peter Heuss and Matt Weller were joined by Microart's Mark Wood and Charles Tonna to discuss taking a product idea through to production. They also talked about how partnering BKW's services with Microart's manufacturing facilities creates a unique full-service team that makes it easier for companies to take their product concepts through production and into the hands of their customers.
Moderated by Phillip Stoten, this webinar provides practical advice to help innovators navigate the design process and get ready for manufacturing and scale. Watch the webinar replay below.
Press Release - Microart Services and Berlin KraftWorks Partnership Connects Innovation to Production
Microart Services, an Electronic Manufacturing Services (EMS) provider with four decades of experience, has joined forces with Berlin KraftWorks Inc. (BKW), an engineering firm that helps firms transform ideas into finalized products, to bridge the gap between ideation and volume commercial production.
Both companies recognise the challenges faced by innovators when going from their eureka moment to the commercialisation of that product. Between them they are able to provide a creative genius with support through every aspect of design, engineering, DfM (design for manufacture), supply chain planning and much more. They allow the brand behind the innovation to focus on product ideation and development, knowing they are being guided through each stage of the commercialisation of their solution. They focus on the ultimate goal of delivering a robust solution to the consumer that is both reliable, scalable and economic.
BKW co-founder, Matt Weller said, “there was a meeting of minds with Microart Services, recognising that while there is support for new tech, there is a lack of resources and preparedness for physical manufacturing”. Matt added, “we both see a real need for hands-on assistance, teaching, and a systems approach that aligns engineering and supply chain from innovation through to production.”
Microart CEO, Mark Wood commented, “working with BKW and their customers allows us to get manufacturing practices and supply chain strategy baked in at the design stage”, adding, “the two teams bring immense experience in engineering, design, supply chain design and much more to deliver innovative products to their end user markets with the minimum pain, minimum risk and maximum value”.
As part of their partnership, Microart Services and BKW are providing advice to help innovators get ready for manufacturing and scale in the form of articles and blogs as well as a forthcoming webinar, scheduled for June 29th at 3pm EST. Matt Weller and Peter Heuss of BKW along with Mark Wood of Microart Services will be providing advice in this online and on-demand event hosted and moderated by Forbes and Entrepreneur journalist, Philip Stoten. Spaces are limited, so please register for this must-see event for innovators wishing to bridge the gap between idea and delivery.
Microart Services is an electronic manufacturing and design services company with four decades of experience, providing PCB layout, bare board manufacturing, PCB assembly, testing and box build for proto-type and low-to-mid volume productions. Microart has a reputation as a team that will bend over backwards for customers and possess the experience, skills and grit to get things done! They invest in the latest technology at their two state-of-the-art facilities to deliver the best product outcomes for their customers.
About Berlin KraftWorks Inc.:
Berlin KraftWorks Inc. makes it quicker and easier for companies to get their products to market. By aligning supply chain and engineering our hands-on solutions integrate into the entire process from design, through supply chain, to the end user.
For all media enquires, contact Scoop Communications.
Microart Services, a Markham ON-based electronic manufacturing services (EMS) provider, has joined forces with Berlin KraftWorks Inc. (BKW), a Kitchener ON-based design house, to host a webinar that aims to provide advice and to help electronic and tech innovators get ready for manufacturing and scale.
Recognizing the challenges faced by innovators when going from their eureka moment to the commercialization of that product, both hosting firms will set out to provide a “creative genius” with support through every aspect of design, engineering, DfM (design for manufacture), supply chain planning and much more.
“There was a meeting of minds with Microart Services, recognizing that while there is support for new tech, there is a lack of resources and preparedness for physical manufacturing,” says Matt Weller, co-founder and leader of supply chain and operations at Berlin KraftWorks, specializes in transforming ideas into finalized products, to bridge the gap between ideation and volume commercial production. “We both see a real need for hands-on assistance, teaching, and a systems approach that aligns engineering and supply chain from innovation through to production.”
Microart CEO, Mark Wood added: “Working with Berlin KraftWorks and their customers allows us to get manufacturing practices and supply chain strategy baked in at the design stage. The two teams bring immense experience in engineering, design, supply chain design and much more to deliver innovative products to their end user markets with the minimum pain, minimum risk and maximum value.”
The webinar is scheduled for June 29th at 3pm EDT. Matt Weller and Peter Heuss of Berlin KraftWorks along with Mark Wood of Microart Services will be providing advice and answering questions from the audience in an online and on-demand event hosted and moderated by Forbes and Entrepreneur journalist, Philip Stoten.
Click here to register for the webinar.
Press Release - Berlin KraftWorks Inc. Selected to Support Manufacturing and Supply Chain Execution for LyteHorse Labs
Kitchener, ON - September 24, 2020 - Berlin KraftWorks Inc. (BKW) is pleased to announce our partnership with LyteHorse Labs. BKW has been selected to support the engineering and supply chain management to take the LyteHorse Labs Electric Performance Vehicle (EPV) to market.
LyteHorse was created by two brothers, Allen Bonk & Brad Bonk. It began its life as a stand-on golf vehicle and has evolved into an all-wheel drive performance vehicle that can not only carry people, but their equipment as well. The efficient design is powerful as well as versatile making it effective in a wide range of industries and terrain.
“We are thrilled to be working with the LyteHorse team,” said Matt Weller, CEO of Berlin KraftWorks Inc. “With this project we have been able to complete design and supply chain work simultaneously making the EPV manufacturable right out of the gate with a supply chain specifically tailored to LyteHorse’s product and volume needs.”
“The BKW team has brought the experience and skill to take our innovative idea and translate it into a product that can be manufactured at scale,” said Allen Bonk, CEO of LyteHorse Labs. “They work as part of our team and deliver the data back in a measurable form, empowering us to stay in control of our design and supply chain decisions.”
BKW has been working with LyteHorse Labs to design the EPV for manufacturing and supply chain. LyteHorse has completed their 7th prototype and are gearing up for a series of trials before completing the final design for manufacturing. “The LyteHorse team is committed to creating a high-quality product for their customers. By aligning supply chain and engineering, not only have they reduced cost, but also the time it will take to get the EPVs out to market. We are excited to see them in action,” said Matt Weller.
About Berlin KraftWorks Inc.
Berlin KraftWorks Inc. makes it quicker and easier for companies to get their products to market. By aligning supply chain and engineering our hands-on solutions integrate into the entire process from design, through supply chain, to the end user. For more information visit www.berlinkw.ca
About LyteHorse Labs
LyteHorse Labs’ mission is to build innovative electric performance vehicles that ensure a sustainably greener earth and create a radical user experience. For more information visit www.lytehorse.com
Co-Founder, Berlin KraftWorks Inc.
In times of crisis, actions speak louder than words. I’d like to share what we’re doing at BKW and I would like to hear from other Manufacturing and Supply Chain Professionals to hear what they are doing so that efforts may be coordinated. Please reach out to BKW at 519-588-2900 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
An organized, united, hands-on approach will always be more successful than disconnected ideas. Right now, there are two horizons we need to collaboratively focus on: The immediate needs, and the future needs. Time is of the essence for both horizons.
Co-Founder, Berlin KraftWorks Inc.
Many manufacturing firms are feeling the pinch right now, and collaboration is happening at a macro level. For example, GM and Tesla have switched gears to produce badly needed ventilators.
Locally in the Greater Waterloo Region and Wellington County, we can follow their lead. BKW is offering to do whatever we can to link up those who need help with those who can provide it. We have set up a contact page for this purpose.
Please reach out if you are:
Exceptional times demand exceptional measures. The combined Waterloo and Wellington County areas represent the 3rd largest manufacturing sector in Canada, and most fall into the small and medium size category. We have incredible resources in our region, imagine what we can do when we collaborate.
Les Hirst, P. Eng.
Design Guide, Berlin KraftWorks Inc.
In this article we discuss sustainability, lay down a vision beyond sustainability, consider the role of design, and offer a few tips and questions that address the practical aspects of design for a healthier planet.
When engineers think of design and sustainability, what often comes to mind for us are straight technological fixes: energy efficiency in products and processes, reduction in toxic materials, recyclability. Although these are important, they only present a partial view of what’s necessary to solve the problems that we’ve created - to shift to a healthier physical and social environment.
Let’s first look at the concept of sustainability. What is it that we want to sustain? In the developed world, we’ve mastered taking care of our material survival needs – at least for those who can afford it. We’ve created a world where entertainment is literally at our fingertips, or at the command of our voice. We can travel at high speed and in comfort to almost anywhere. The list goes on. We’ve also created a world of (mostly exported) wars, depletion of land, species extinction, oceans choking in plastic, huge landfills, rapid climate change, social disconnection, and alarming rates of addiction, anxiety, and depression. In this context, what does sustainability mean? Do we want to keep this going for another 100 years? 500 years? We might ponder this thought: Maybe if we were to only to do half the harm, we’d be able to carry on more or less like we have been.
Change our perspective. Change our world.
The world and the products that we create are a reflection of what’s going on inside of us, of our society and of our corporate and work environment. As Indian teacher Sadhguru says: “How can we create a world of peace, when we have no peace in our own minds?”
As designers, when we increase our own awareness, our compassion and self-compassion, our empathy for all living beings, our capacity to listen, our accountability, integrity and honesty – we begin to change our definitions of what’s important. When we combine these soft skills with our technical ability to create safe, functional, and cost-effective products, we create products that are more supportive of life and healing of the physical and social environment.
This may all sound like wishful thinking, however I believe it’s the shift that’s necessary to begin turning things around. After all, isn’t doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result the definition of insanity? Changing our approach only sounds so radical because the promotion of the current approach (faster, cheaper, more, …) is so entrenched in our systems of education, media, government, and corporate culture.
When we begin seeing beyond what we’ve come to believe, the creative space opens for new possibilities.
Where Do We Start?
A good place to start is to consider the world that we’d love to inhabit and create, then refocus our thoughts and efforts toward that. For each of us, this will be different. And it will not take place overnight. What is your vision? For me, this world and my place in it includes:
Some Questions to Ask When Designing
The Product Itself:
What are we designing? How aligned is it with the vision that we hold for the world we want to live in?
The Design Process:
How are we designing? Is the work environment supportive or depleting? Are we rushing to get the product out to the market or taking the time required to produce something brilliant? Are we considering what our customers truly want?
What are the social and environmental impacts of production (from raw material extraction and processing to manufacturing processes and assembly)?
Is the product designed to be durable? Is it serviceable? What is the impact of the packaging? How much energy does it consume when it’s used? When its life is over, how will it be transformed (recycled, burned for fuel, re-purposed, composted, …)?
We can design, as MIT professor Otto Scharmer writes in Theory U, what the emerging future is calling of us. Successful companies of the near future will be the ones who inspire. Who inspire the very best designers and makers to work with them? Who inspire customers who are thirsting for well designed, well made, and affordable products that truly enhance their lives? Who inspire their suppliers to co-create with them? Who are in right relationship with the planet and the beings that live on it?
Let’s wake up to possibility. Realize that we’ve all had a hand creating the current reality. It’s time to create a new one. I’ve laid down a vision. I’d love to hear yours.
Peter Heuss, P. Eng.
Co-Founder, Berlin KraftWorks Inc.
To be successful and profitable (to meet the needs of the business) every product is a collaboration of multiple groups. As an engineer, in the past I’ve been as guilty as most at jumping into a new design assuming I understand all the requirements. After all, I’m smart, I can design it. But then later I’ve had to rework designs because I’ve missed a critical feature, misunderstood a requirement, picked a component that wasn’t supportable, etc.
I believe that one of the most important elements of a successful product is typically ignored or overlooked. Good design cannot happen if the designers don’t understand everything the product must deliver, how it must deliver it, how it affects other groups, the target cost, and timelines. But the design isn’t the only critical element in bringing a product to market. Parts must be sourced, purchased and delivered, other parts need to be fabricated, then assembled, tested, packaged, stored, delivered to the customer, and often serviced. Everyone involved, in all of those steps needs to understand what the intent is, what the limits are, and what to do if something doesn’t meet those intents.
The design specification is the one document that should capture all of that information.
If you Google product specification you will find lots of examples discussing a product design specification (PDS) or product requirements document (PRD) as it applies to a software product. These same documents are even more important for a multi-disciplinary product. There are more teams involved in the successful implementation; hence more need for clear and thorough sharing of all the requirements.
I have always combined the PDS and PRD, but regardless if there’s one document or many, they should be referenced and organized in one place where all the required information can be clearly documented and accessed.
The product spec starts with the business case. After all, we’re trying to make something someone wants to buy and we want to sell it at a profit so that the company can continue and grow. The business case should outline what functions the product must have, who it will be sold to, where it will be sold, in what volumes, and at what cost.
Obviously, if one document is going to include everything required by all parties, it can’t be created and completed day one. It will continue to evolve as the details are developed. Industrial design will take marketing data and develop form and function, engineering will take the functional requirements and the industrial design and develop the detailed designs, supply chain will work with engineering to source materials and help plan production, manufacturing will take the designs and bills of material and plan assembly etc.
A typical comment is that there’s not enough time to write a spec or that we already know what we want and there’s no need for a spec. At a recent manufacturing peer to peer group meeting we were discussing a design specification for a relatively simple automotive part. The spec had multiple revisions and had grown to approximately 60 pages. Someone in the group piped up and said every one of those revisions was a lesson learned.
A thorough specification that is used, maintained and reviewed by all stakeholders will help plan more efficiently, avoid problems, achieve business objectives, and almost always reduce the overall time and cost of product development.
In future blogs I will explore how to use the design spec to plan efficient and effective conceptual and detailed design, custom part fabrication, assembly, testing and quality control.
An important hint – knowing how the spec will be used will make writing one much simpler and quicker.
Les Hirst, P. Eng.
Design Guide, Berlin KraftWorks Inc.
In this post, we’ll explore why well executed engineering drawings are still essential – in this era of 3D printing, 3D CAD, and the outsourcing of manufacturing.
As a college teacher and design advisor to start-ups, I’ve noticed that young mechanical designers have a great aptitude in 3D modeling, but often don’t direct much effort to the creation of detailed engineering drawings. I can understand the motivation for this. 3D modeling is fun – kind of like the electronic equivalent of working with modeling clay – and creating drawings just seems like a lot of tedious work. Even though the creation of a simple drawing layout from a 3D model is incredibly easy with modern design software, the harder work comes in when we apply dimensions, tolerances, and detailed notes. This is the type of notation that requires us to identify important functional relationships and limit the allowable dimensional variation that will ensure that functional requirements are met.
Developing mastery in creating drawings takes time. Unfortunately, the shift in the typical environments for young designers often doesn’t support this development. When I began my career, most college and university engineering grads would begin work at medium or large size companies – where we took on junior design roles and learned how to create drawings from experienced designers who knew the products well. I call this the guild model of learning. Let’s contrast that with a common situation today - where recent grads are often the only mechanical designer in a start-up environment and are expected to create drawings for a wide variety of parts and assemblies. I can really empathize with them, as they’re in a situation where they have to either figure it out for themselves or contract out the work.
So the question arises – Do we even need detailed drawings anymore? After all, they seem like a relic of when drafting boards ruled and 3D printers didn’t exist. Isn’t the 3D model good enough?
Great points. To question 1: there is an alternative method called model based dimensioning (MBD), where all of the information normally contained on drawings is applied directly to the 3D model. I suspect that this will take over from drawings eventually, however it’s not yet widely used and the early implementations of it in software have been awkward to use. In this article, drawings and MBD are considered to be equivalent. To question 2: actually, we can get away with minimal or no drawings in the early proof-of-concept and subsequent industrial design phases. But once we get to the NPI phase, where we’re designing parts for testing, compliance certifications, and ultimately production, the information contained on drawings is essential for four key reasons:
1. Design – Documenting Requirements with Unambiguous Language
Designers need to capture the higher level design intent for the product (e.g. ease of assembly, alignment, gap consistency, reliable sealing, etc.) and ensure that the manufactured component parts meet this intent. In order to do this, the critical characteristics and dimensional variation of these parts must be documented and clearly communicated to whomever is manufacturing and inspecting them. Engineering drawings accomplish this function, using common standards and languages developed by organizations such as ISO and ASME. In addition to clear communication, the creation of engineering drawings forces the designer to carefully consider how the component parts support the overall design intent.
2. Supply Chain – Quoting
Drawings contain key information - such as tolerances, identification of critical dimensions, material specifications, finishes and coating – that do not typically exist on a 3D model. This information is critical for a supplier to quote accurately on a job. A supplier’s business success depends on meeting the specifications on the design documents at the lowest possible cost. If the specifications aren’t fully and clearly communicated, the resulting parts may not meet design intent.
3. Operations - Manufacturing and Inspection
The manufacturer will select machinery, processes, tools, and fixturing to ensure that parts are produced at the lowest cost that consistently meet the dimensional tolerances and other characteristics specified on the drawing. Parts can then be inspected to unambiguous requirements on drawings, represented with standardized symbolic language, allowing for in-process control and reporting. This applies regardless of whether the parts are produced in-house, locally, or at an overseas contract manufacturer.
4. Legal – Contracts, Compliance and Protection
The drawing represents what the manufacturer agrees to produce and is a contractual document, along with the purchase order and other documents. If the parts shipped don’t meet expectations, the first question should be: do they comply with the drawing specifications?
In the unlikely event that the end product causes damages, and either civil or criminal charges are brought forward, the drawings will likely be used as evidence to assess whether or not proper care was taken in the design. The question then may be: do the drawings and other documentation ensure that the design complies with safety and regulatory requirements?
We can see how clear and complete engineering drawings are essential for ensuring that product requirements are reflected in the design, that the manufactured parts meet those requirements, and that legal considerations are given due care. Doing the drawing work up front can save a lot of headaches down the road as well as expedite the time to market.