Process and Product Design

October 31, 2016
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A chart of concept development through to production.

A Professional Approach to Product Development

Product development is the process of creating a new product to be sold by a business or enterprise to its customers. In the document title, Design refers to those activities involved in creating the styling, look and feel of the product, deciding on the product's mechanical architecture, selecting materials and processes, and engineering the various components necessary to make the product work. Development refers collectively to the entire process of identifying a market opportunity, creating a product to appeal to the identified market, and finally, testing, modifying and refining the product until it is ready for production. A product can be any item from a book, musical composition, or information service, to an engineered product such as a computer, hair dryer, or washing machine. This document is focused on the process of developing discrete engineered products, rather than works of art or informational products.

The task of developing outstanding new products is difficult, time-consuming, and costly. People who have never been involved in a development effort are astounded by the amount of time and money that goes into a new product. Great products are not simply designed, but instead they evolve over time through countless hours of research, analysis, design studies, engineering and prototyping efforts, and finally, testing, modifying, and re-testing until the design has been perfected.

Few products are developed by a single individual working alone. It is unlikely that one individual will have the necessary skills in marketing, industrial design, mechanical and electronic engineering, manufacturing processes and materials, tool-making, packaging design, graphic art, and project management, just to name the primary areas of expertise. Development is normally done by a project team, and the team leader draws on talent in a variety of disciplines, often from both outside and inside the company. As a general rule, the cost of a development effort is a factor of the number of people involved and the time required to nurture the initial concept into a fully-refined product. Rarely can a production-ready product be developed in less than one year, and some projects can take three to five years to complete.

The impetus for a new product normally comes from a perceived market opportunity or from the development of a new technology. Consequently, new products are broadly categorized as either market-pull products or technology-push products. With a market-pull product, the marketing center of the company first determines that sales could be increased if a new product were designed to appeal to a particular segment of its customers. Engineering is then asked to determine the technical feasibility of the new product idea. This interaction is reversed with a technology-push product. When a technical breakthrough opens the way for a new product, marketing then attempts to determine the idea's prospects in the marketplace. In many cases, the technology itself may not actually point to a particular product, but instead, to new capabilities and benefits that could be packaged in a variety of ways to create a...

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