The process of moving an idea from concept to production can seem like forever when racing against the clock. Innovation does not stop, and a competitor can suddenly release a very similar product seemingly overnight. Compressing the product development life cycle will allow you to retain the top position with any release, but without cutting corners or sacrificing quality. There are several steps that must be followed in order to reduce the time it takes to get your idea through product development.
Step 1: Follow a Script in Project Planning and Task Identification
Keeping your project lean and agile from the start is the most practical way to ensure a reduction of your product development life cycle timeline. The most effective way to accomplish this is through the use of a script, or runbook, that outlines every step from start to finish. This will include only the final determinations of what tasks should be worked on using data from research initiatives that look at user needs, financial viability, and typical issues encountered in similar projects.
Using this information, you can develop a project plan that eliminates unhelpful or ineffective items while encouraging an open platform of collaboration. The information you gather during the task identification process will also provide you with precise, data-driven project checkpoints that help to keep the project on track. The effectiveness of this strategy improves, even more, when remediation and communication steps are clearly outlined.
Step 2: Adapt Modern Development Approaches
One standard in manufacturing that has been proven to shorten the product development life cycle is the use of computer-aided design (CAD). Utilizing CAD software gives your product development team a modernized element that works to shorten the process in many ways. Building a digital representation of your idea is only the tip of the iceberg, as CAD software tools present you with a management platform that can manage time-consuming design tasks.
Accepting innovative CAD processes and tools for the design of your product opens the doors to some exciting options. Partnering with a design consultant will hasten your development life cycle, as they will have a defined process already in place. Also, a CAD design partner will likely have a design template that can be applied to your product design, further streamlining the design process and eliminating common problem areas that cause delays.
Step 3: Evaluate Your Design and Product Attributes
Delivering your product from the virtual world and into the physical world can introduce problems that contribute to delayed timelines. But using CAD software to build and virtually test your product in a safe, low-cost 3D environment helps you to build a more productive simile of your idea. Presenting your idea in physical form, via the prototype, is a fast way to assess and evaluate any of its attributes, from appearance and tactile responses to a fully functional replica of the final product.
The rapid prototyping strategy is here to do exactly that; it leverages both emerging and traditional manufacturing techniques to create a physical model of your product. All that is needed is a prototyping partner and a digital design, and you will be ready to create your prototype that can range from a simple, rudimentary facsimile of your product and up to a fully functional model that could pass for the final product.
Step 4: Pursue a Limited Launch to Reduce Risk
A common mistake made after the evaluation of a product occurs is to build too many of them too soon. This limits the ability to quickly pull back and to make any course corrections, leading to delays that are costly both in money and time. By sending your evaluated design to a manufacturer that specializes in small-scale manufacturing, you gain a partner that will work with you to rapidly make any required project changes to get things back on track.
A limited launch presents you with a production schedule that is agile and comes with low overhead costs. Also, quality control greatly improves, as more time can be spent inspecting each product as it comes off the line—a very good trait for a newly released item. Finally, limited launch strategies give you scalability, so that you can increase or decrease production as market demands change, thereby preventing you from having a warehouse full of unsold inventory.
Reducing the Product Development Life Cycle Relies on Precise Adjustments
Going with a limited launch allows you to get your product to market—fast. From here, and based on the initial response, you can choose to make subtle design changes, to go into full production, or to determine that your product is best suitable for short-run production scenarios. Your design team will need to regularly review the success and performance of your products, both with external and internal customers.
Conducting these reviews, and making the needed adjustments, can be challenging for many product designers. Developing a partnership with a consultant that has well-rounded industry experience and is known for its ability to provide end-to-end manufacturing services will yield the best results. Possessing deep levels of understanding across the entire product development life cycle, they can introduce additional guidance to reduce your end-to-end production timelines.
PRL is a full-service product development company that specializes in all aspects of production, from design to product fabrication and prototyping. Our experts are here to guide you through the full product development process, including the ideation, design, creation, and management of your product idea.