Developing an Industrial Product

  1. Logic of Product Development
  2. Analysis in Product Development
  3. Synthesis in Product Development
  4. Evaluation in Product Development
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Logic of Product Development

Product developmentProduct development in a mature, continually operating business is an interminable, cyclic activity. Each finished new product provides in turn a basis for the next sequence of product development, see the figure on the left.
ProjectIn spite of its unending nature, product development is usually organized as a series of linear projects as we see in the figure on the right. The reason is that it is easier to steer the activity in this way.

In any case, the starting points of product development are the company idea and strategy, or the product policy. These usually exist in some form (cf. Three Modes of Knowing) even if they are not always documented in small companies. Other important issues are the state of the market and the pressure from the competitors.

CostsThe costs of product development tend to escalate sharply as the project unfolds ( red line in the figure on the right). The same is true for the costs caused by any change in the design. In other words, the possibilities ( green line in the figure) to affect the qualities of the product decrease at the same time as the process advances. Therefore, the company should carry out all the necessary studies as early as possible in the product development phase.

Cash flowProduct development must be well organized because there is usually no time to lose. "The fast will eat the slow." The company which launches a product before its competitors do will profit from a longer selling time before the commercial ageing of the product takes place (see diagram on the left, red curve). Moreover, the initially higher price of the new product will yield more profit than the belated products of the more sluggish competitors (violet and blue curves) can yield.

A product development project includes several aspects of research, operations planning, and product design, and it is intimately controlled by the management of the enterprise. It usually includes the following operations:
Phase Result of the phase
Research and strategic design

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Analysis of the market
Analyses of competitors' manoeuvres
Facts on possible importable new product ideas and patents
Product drivers
Developing the product concept

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Product concept
Specifications, perhaps diversified for various markets
Product calculus
Concept of production (Where? Which parts are bought?)
Developing the product and the production process

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Product design
Prototypes
Specifications for components
Preliminary plan of production
Patenting of the innovations when appropriate
Final preparation of the design and the production process

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First products are made on the production line and their quality is tested
Workers are trained
Production team is ready for the final speed of the production (it is tested)
Marketing organization is ready
After sales organization is ready
Start of regular production (there are specific goals for regular production, not given here)

Note, however, that the process described in the table above does not always continue until the happy end. Reasons for this can be:

  1. In any stage of the project it is possible that the management of the company concludes that the project is not promising enough or too risky, and the project will be terminated before too much money is spent on it.
  2. Many large companies have lately found it advantageous to generate a surplus of preliminary ideas for new products, i.e. more product concepts than will be used for the final products. From this "idea bank" they can then later pick out the best ones, and the designers need then only a minimum of time to make them ready for production. Moreover, these innovative product concepts can be useful in strategic planning, for internal education of personal and for publicity. In other words, there are product concept projects that include only the two first phases of the table above.

The product development process normally entails, like any other project in a large organization, the usual activities of project administration. After each completed stage, the project reports to the management and receives the targets for the next stage. If the management wants to control the job very tightly, the normal way is to start the next phase only after the preceding one is approved of. This kind of scheduling is shown in the diagram below. The red arrows indicate steering actions taken by the management.

Successive tasks

Successive scheduling of a development project takes a great deal of precious time.
Concurrent tasksThat is why an alternative is sometimes used where the phases overlap (simultaneous or concurrent engineering, fig. on the right).

The exact procedure of product development depends on the nature of the product, on the extent of the production and on many local circumstances. Especially the phase of production planning is usually so adversely affected by practical conditions that this phase will be omitted from the following explanation of the typical process of product development.

Analysis - syntesis - evaluation Despite individual variation, a basic logical structure can be found in most projects of product development. The dominant activity in the initial phases of the project is analysis, while at the midpoint the focal point shifts into synthesis and finally into evaluation. These three procedures are therefore selected as the structure of the following presentation.

Of course, the process of product development is seldom so simple that it could simply consist of a succession of just three routines. Instead, it often happens that when a sub-routine in the process has produced a report that seems finished, it nevertheless turns out to be unacceptable and you have to redo it, perhaps again as a similar succession of analysis, synthesis and evaluation, in a smaller scale. The whole process can thus often more resemble a spiral than a straight path.

Www-pages on the development of an industrial product:

  1. Logic of Product Development (this page)
  2. Analysis in Product Development
  3. Synthesis in Product Development
  4. Evaluation in Product Development

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August 3, 2007.
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Original location: http://www2.uiah.fi/projects/metodi