Fast-tracking Product Development Doesn't Mean Skipping NPD Tollgates
Getting to market fast is important and we often get questions from both startups and established brands about how to shorten the New Product Development (NPD) timeline. Here are the top questions we encounter:
Can We Go Directly from Prototype to Mass Production?
The answer to this question depends on the complexity of the product, the experience of your production partner, and the quality assurance protocols in place. Generally speaking, it is not recommended to go directly from a prototype to mass production without additional steps. This is because a prototype is typically intended to be a proof of concept, whereas mass production represents the final product. It is therefore important to test and refine the prototype in order to ensure that it required standards and specifications.
Why is a Follow-up Round of Prototyping Necessary?
When making design changes to a prototype, it is important to conduct a follow-up round of prototyping. This allows for further testing and refinement of the product before it is ready for mass production. Doing a follow-up round of prototyping also helps to identify any issues that may arise during the mass production process, meaning that any potential problems can be addressed before spending money to tool up something which cannot be produced or going into production with multiple problems which cannot be fixed due to an incompetent design. Additionally, by doing a follow-up round of prototyping, you can ensure that the final product meets the required standards and specifications.
Here is a simplified view of a proper prototyping process:
Risks of skipping the proof of concept stage:
This is probably the most important part of the early product development work because it demonstrates how the product should look and work and confirms if you’re on track with producing it correctly. By skipping it and not validating the products aesthetics, functionality, and suitability for filling the consumer’s needs a manufacturer could end up investing a lot of time and money into starting production on a product that just isn’t fit for purpose or the market.
Can We Skip Sample Review?
It is possible to skip multiple rounds of sample review, but this is not recommended. Doing multiple rounds of sample review allows for further testing and refinement of the product before it is ready for mass production. This helps to ensure that the final product meets the required standards and specifications. By doing multiple rounds of sample review, any potential issues can be identified and addressed before the product is put into production.
Here is a simplified view of the Number of Samples for Validations in NPD:
Risks of skipping the sample review stage:
This could result in going to production and the factory reporting back that they just can’t get started, or end up manufacturing a product that isn’t safe or reliable. Products need to be tested to assure that they can withstand being used in ways they weren’t designed for, abused, used in different environments, and put under stress to see if they can cope. Accelerated lifetime testing, battery testing, environmental testing, drop testing…all of these tests are required to assure reliability in the longer term. There may be many rounds of testing on numerous sample products. Running out of time and rushing into production is often the cause of this being skipped due to the time required, but the result will be reliability issues in the customers’ hands and too many costly returns.
Is a Pilot Run Necessary?
A pilot run is necessary in order to ensure that the product meets the required standards and specifications. It is also an important step in the process of improving the production process, as it allows for testing and refinement of the production process before it is put into full production. Additionally, a pilot run allows for any potential issues to be identified and addressed before the product is put into production.
Risks when skipping the pilot run
Even though it is tempting to go into production as we’re almost ready, once a product is in mass production there could be thousands of pieces made only for you to find out that there was an issue with a component or process that has resulted in, say, 50% being defective. This costly risk can be avoided by just putting a small number of samples through production and examining the processes, work instructions, staff, and products to assure that they’re A-OK before giving the go-ahead for mass production.
With 30 years of experience developing thousands of products for US and Europe clients, FSE has developed a complete set of NPD procedures to help you proof your design concepts, set proper expectations, thoroughly review and inspect prototypes, samples and production, and manage risks so as avoiding costly errors. Feel free to reach out to us at email@example.com if you need any assistances.