Product Design Success – Part 3

December 24, 2018

It is very hard to predict the weather even with all the advancements we have made. But it is relatively easy to predict the reality check storm that hits the majority of product design projects near the end. The good news is you know the storm is coming so you can prepare for it.

Get ready to work really hard near the end – A lot of projects go like this. You create the basic design fairly quickly and then you continue to work out the detailed elements of the design fairly quickly. Then there is a lull while you go through your product development process, market research, talking to investors, working with suppliers, but still, you are about 90% there.

What you need to keep in mind is that the last 10% of your product design will take up 50% of your effort and require many more hours than you may be prepared for. All the lingering issues, the unverified and undecided issues, will all come at you fast as your market deadlines loom.

Get ready for the reality of all nighters near the end. This is not because of poor planning but more about you cannot really finalize until you can start to realize your design. Until you get prototypes to test and review you really can’t finish your design. Until you can focus group your product for feedback, you really can’t close off your design. It is just the nature of the beast. Accept this reality and you won’t be panicking near the end.

Push suppliers hard but don’t ignore price reality – You have a design started and with that design you should have a rough manufacturing price in your head as well as a rough retail price in your head. You want to push suppliers hard on price, but you also need to educate yourself on competitive pricing for what you are manufacturing. What you don’t want to do is push back too much on the reality of honest pricing. If you start calling market manufacturing pricing crazy pricing because it doesn’t fit your expectations you may have a really big problem at the end. Manufacturing price gains can usually be achieved later on as you ramp up for large production runs. Early on you might just have to accept the price reality you are faced with (even if it is not perfect) to ensure you finish, to ensure you launch.

If you design without a target manufacturing price and target retail price in mind, then you are in for a rude awakening. If you truly understand manufacturing pricing and component pricing and retail pricing then you can often adjust your product design or product offer to match these realities.

I worked on an electronics project years ago where a big part of the price and development costs were tied into the main chip used in the design. Our client would not accept this price and they would not accept that chips become redundant over time and more development is required when this happens. When it comes to certain components you really need to know how the supply chain works in that industry and how the industry works in general. The client still made money but not as much as they could have made if they had just accepted the reality in front of them and adjusted accordingly.

Some “realities” that some suppliers will present you are false and you should fight them, ideally with parallel partners already worked out, to prove that there is a better way and to show your preferred supplier your strength and knowledge in manufacturing. But there are times when price realities and manufacturing time realities are real and they need to be accepted. If you don’t then a reality storm that could have blown itself out in a day or two may end up lingering for weeks or months near the end of your project.

Plan for bad weather. Have the financial resources at hand to weather a storm. But most importantly, build in profit and operating cost room so that you can accept price reality and finish.

Gary Moran

At HLH, we make things for you.


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