"Building a better mousetrap" is what all organizations strive for and
is the surest way to build profit. However, the image of the inventor with a light bulb going off in his head is not realistic. Thomas Edison did not develop the light bulb in a single flash of inspiration; it took many trials and failures before that light bulb finally glowed consistently. At Les Wood Associates, we bring innovation to all of our projects combined with a rational and scientific approach to developing products and processes.
Our services include:
Outline of a Typical Product Development Process
Product Planning and Selecting
Selecting the right projects is the key to successful product development.
A primary requirements for a new product is that it meets marker requirements
and can be sold profitably. Before launching development on an new
product, it is important to know whether it can be sold profitably. Les Wood
Associates provides market research through our business development
group. We can help you find out:
- How big the current market is for the product or group of products.
- How rapidly is the market growing.
- What features will add to the ability to sell of the product
- What price range should the product meet..
Ideas for products can come from many places both within and outside your
organization. There needs to be a formal way of gathering them for
subsequent review. The goal of this review is to promote winning concepts
and cull losers. Evaluating the merits of a product requires input from your customers, your
suppliers and from all corners of your organization, including: sales/marketing, engineering,
control, finance and legal. We recommend creating a review team with
representation from each of these areas.
The criteria for accepting a project should
- A demonstrated need in the marketplace. Don't rely on a salesman's "gut
feel". Get reliable, quantitative data from a well designed market
research program. (see our Business
- A regulatory need or legal requirement. (e.g. Emission controls, Safety
regulations, Environmental regulations)
- Potential for profit (Requires developing a cost/price analysis)
- The project and product fall within the capabilities of the organization - or
the organization can develop these capabilities.
- Developing, commercializing and marketing the product do not conflict with other company objectives.
It is quite possible that a product is accepted on its initial review, but,
as development proceeds and more is understood of the product, these
specifications typically change. This is a major reason why it is vital to
review projects continually to ensure that the products remain viable. It
is critical to minimize the degree of politics that enter into these decisions.
The most successful product development companies have fewer ideas
under development per employee than the less successful ones, but they are more carefully
Create the Specification
Using the information collected in the market survey, the development team
needs to specify the criteria
that the product must meet. These include: performance, price and manufacturing
Design and Select the Development Process
Developing a new product involves technical, financial, or marketing risks.
(Not developing new products may be an even bigger risk!) It is
the task of the product development organization to manage that risk. To
that end, many development techniques, which combine design reviews with
iterations of the development process are used. A few samples are the: "Waterfall Process", "Spiral Process" and
"Evolutionary Process". Each of them manages risk in a
different manner. The process selected depends upon the complexity and
nature of the product, be it mechanical, electronic, chemical, software or
whatever. It takes experience to understand the benefits and of
each process and Les Wood Associates provides that experience and expertise.
This is the heart of the development process. It starts with developing
the overall product concept and ends up with its detailed design.
Prototyping and Testing
In this phase, the concept and design of the product are proved at both the
conceptual and detail levels. It is an iterative process, that follows the
pattern of the development process being employed.
Prior to release there may be a marketing ramp-up that requires agreements on
financing, warrantees, maintenance contracts and many other issues that lead to
a successful product launch.
This is outline is not complete. For some companies there may be other
steps, e.g. for pharmaceutical and biomedical companies there may be a need for clinical
testing and pretrial approvals, but most product development programs go through
this general routine.
Speed to Market
Much work has been done in the last few years to shorten development times
and bring products to the market more quickly. There is always pressure to be the first to
the benefits can be enormous. However, in doing so, we must realize that we
are making tradeoffs. Most development projects have four objectives: Shortest development time;
Lowest development cost; Lowest cost to manufacture the product; Best product performance.
By understanding and quantifying these tradeoffs,
we are able to balance these objectives to maximize your profit.
Organizing for Product or Process Development
Too often, product development is delegated to an arm of the engineering
department, where it is very difficult to succeed. In addition to helping
you to develop products, Les Wood Associates can help you to establish a
successful Product Development Group within your organization.
The success of a Product Development Organization depends upon:
- The skills and knowledge of its staff
- Its organizational structure
- Its culture, controls and communication
In establishing a Product Development Organization we need to need to look at
its infrastructure. Factors affecting performance include:
- The background and experience of the management team
- Organizational barriers
- May be organized along technological or product lines
- Collaborate internally with sales, marketing and manufacturing
- Collaborate externally with customers and suppliers
- Access to manufacturing and pilot production capability