Product Development Process: The Difference A Partner’s Support Can Make

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The path that needs to be followed to take a new product from concept to the customer is full of hurdles. Partnering with product development experts, who help through the many phases of launching a cutting-edge, relevant product in the market, makes the journey easier.

Today, when ideas have immense power to transform the world, the journey from ideation to execution is significant. Whether a company is already established or is a startup, it is always looking to stay relevant in the market through innovation, by researching new technologies, creating new electronic products or developing existing projects further. All of this depends on how an idea that has enormous commercial potential is developed, such that the finished product grabs the attention of those who will welcome its creation, reap its benefits, and order and use it in vast quantities.

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With the range of development boards, open source hardware and software libraries available, as well as the growth of cloud services, the process of taking an idea all the way from proof-of-concept stage to the market is no longer the domain of large, well-funded organisations. Makers, hobbyists and tinkerers are now just as likely to become full-fledged professional developers. So, it is advisable to have some kind of partner operating at whatever level support is needed.

Such support could be at the very beginning of a concept’s journey—for example, researching the market to see if there is even a need for the product. At the other end of the process, support could be for designing packaging, organising distribution and even telling the world about the product, through marketing and public relations.

The figure below shows the stages of an electronic product’s creation and development process. So, how can third-party support make a difference between success and failure?

Brainstorm and ideate

Whether the initial concept is generated by a hobbyist, a startup company or an established business, it always helps to talk to others in similar situations. Online communities, such as the one built by element14

(www.element14.com/community/welcome), are ideal platforms for inventors and creators to discuss the pitfalls of bringing a concept to market. Of course, this should be done without revealing the details of the original idea.

A second opinion from people who are facing the same challenges with concept development and market penetration adds the necessary perspective.

Alternatively, to accelerate the whole initial product development process, there are several mentoring programmes that provide access to a network of business mentors, investors, hardware professionals and even potential customers. This type of service is particularly ideal for startups that hope to receive financial support to take things to the next level—being introduced to mentors can make a massive difference to the outcome of any product development exercise.

At the same time, an initial consultation with an application engineer can put many fears and doubts to rest, and bring clarity to a potentially bewildering process. A crucial question that needs to be addressed at the product definition stage is whether there is actually a requirement for such a product, and whether it has the potential to generate interest among consumers.

Turning idea into design

Translating the idea into a design is the next step. It is important to carry out a feasibility study before committing too much time and money to any project. A detailed product development plan should be generated by taking help from specialists and professionals who are well versed in providing engineering solutions to hobbyists, startups and established businesses, while also looking into how the whole development programme is to be funded. Unless these vital elements are in place, going any further is not advisable.

Also, when it comes to choosing the correct products for an application, the right partner with up-to-date product and design experience can help a startup determine something as fundamental as whether a field-programmable gate array is the best technology to adopt, or whether a combination of microcontrollers and microprocessors will deliver the best performance and efficiency.

As for the physical design of an electronic product, it makes sense to work with a partner who is highly experienced in PCB layout and schematic design. Product designers need to keep several things in mind like types of design tools, software for product design and hardware, among others.

Prototype, test, analyse and redefine

To overcome the barriers to market entry, a third party might help in making speedy but necessary design iterations. Before a product enters the market, it must be prototyped, tested, analysed and refined, and refined again. Along with testing and verification, manufacturers need to get their newly designed products registered under Compulsory Regulatory Scheme (CRS). This has been introduced by Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology (MeitY), and with Bureau of Indian Standards (BIS).

Once a perfect market fit and adequate funding is found for the product, having a third-party engineering team with extensive experience in designing and helping to bring products to market can help significantly in making the most of funding (from sources like Ketto, an Indian online crowd-sourcing platform) and moving the whole process forward.

A partner to help execute

The journey from concept to customer is lengthy and full of hurdles. One of the biggest challenges in this process is executing the product idea. If anything goes wrong at this stage, a lot of hard work, time and money might get wasted. That is why it is essential for the product creator to have an excellent relationship with a strong hardware partner, who has the expertise to manufacture the finished item in a way that guarantees optimum quality, keeping production costs to an absolute minimum. Vital elements in manufacturing include sourcing the most suitable materials and components with bill of materials cost optimisation.

Dragon Innovation, for example, is a US-based product development firm with offices in the US and China. It supports product creators to move from design to prototype to volume production. The company helps its customers understand manufacturing costs and schedules, find factories and manage production as they scale their businesses.

In particular, organisations that offer product development support can enable their customers to gain insights on cash flow, break-even reports and systems of record-keeping, throughout the manufacturing journey.

Marketing and distribution

The next stage is high-service distribution. This involves kitting, box design and build, printing of manuals and user guides, accessory bundling, and individual and bulk packaging.

During this stage, the distributor needs to have experience in handling vast quantities of electronic products efficiently and cost-effectively, especially online, where access to a massive engineering community is available.

Finally, the product needs to be marketed to potential customers. This stage could include an official product launch through printed and online media—particularly, vitally important social media outlets—that target the product’s intended market.

For instance, Premier Farnell has supported the global technology community at every stage of the product development process, helping design engineers create designs, build prototypes and deliver finished products quickly. The company has recently launched a new service for makers to help them bring their product ideas to market. At the same time, its distribution channels ensure products reach the largest markets possible.

The overall goal is always to help people, products and businesses to apply technology that will change the world for the better.

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