Five ways to minimise your design risks
1. SOLVE THE RIGHT PROBLEM
One of the greatest risks taken by any company is selecting which product to develop – and setting the correct specification. Making these decisions depends on a whole host of information including knowledge of the market, your customers, the competition, technical developments and the economy. The best way to minimise the risks associated with these factors is to form a development team that includes representatives from marketing, sales, technical, manufacturing, maintenance, finance – and design. This team should be totally focused on customer needs and all the issues represented by the team should be considered at every meeting. It is also important that the team is made up of the same people at each meeting to ensure consistency and to avoid discussing the same issues time and again.
2. STAGE INVESTMENTS
Product development is an expensive activity, and you can minimise the risk of wasted investment by implementing the project in clearly defined stages. Each stage should have to meet specific criteria before any more money is spent. For example, if there’s the possibility that your product idea might infringe someone else’s patent, make sure you investigate this before you spend any money on development. The nature of these tests will depend on the project, but common issues include legal (intellectual property), technical (basic functionality and performance), financial (cost of tooling investment and part cost), and market (user acceptance). Also, make sure you are working with Design Consultants who charge for each stage separately – to give you maximum control over costs and progress.
3. MAKE FULL USE OF PROTOTYPES
James Dyson often talks about building 5,000 prototypes during the development of his cyclone vacuum cleaner; whereas some companies think that the advent of Computer Aided Design means that they only need to build one prototype before they begin production. The reality is that prototypes are vital design tools that identify and resolve problems that would otherwise affect the final product. Prototypes really fall into two categories –development and production. Development prototypes will be lacking in visual detail and may have rough surfaces, but they enable technical issues to be resolved quickly. Production prototypes are the most important. They enable the design to be simulated as a one-off to check that everything works, fits and looks right. To begin manufacture without building a production prototype is extremely risky and can be commercially disastrous. Find out more about how SolidDesign can help with Prototyping.
4. SELECT THE RIGHT PRODUCTION PARTNERS
Probably the greatest risk in any product development project is the selection of the specialists or subcontractors who will produce your tooling or manufacture your parts and assemblies. You can minimise the risks of working with suppliers by looking at their track record of similar parts, talking to their customers, checking out their commercial position (We use riskdisk.com) and reading their terms and conditions very carefully. Once you have selected a good supplier, you can further minimise your risks by getting them fully involved, preferably at an early stage in the project. Suppliers whose expertise and opinions are valued will deliver a better service – and product – than those who are treated as hired hands. Specialists with years of experience can also add significant value to a project – and help avoid expensive errors.
5. WORK TO REALISTIC TIMESCALES
The last few stages of product development projects are often rushed – and it is easy to see why, with delivery deadlines and sales targets to meet. Unfortunately, these last stages are also vital ones for the new product – testing, production trials, issues of quality and finish, etc. Realistically, there is no easy solution to this problem, but it is important to recognise that putting what is essentially an unfinished product onto the market is a major commercial risk, and it should be avoided at all costs. The only way to minimise the chances of this situation occurring is to allow plenty of ‘down time’ in the project plan to allow for the inevitable tooling delays, holidays, illnesses, delivery delays – and pure bad luck. We would be happy to help you look at the likely lead times for the different stages of your project to help map out a realistic time plan – or advice on all the other strategies outlined above. Please contact us to arrange a meeting.