Before a product reaches the market, it has to go through a rigorous development process. Every stage of new product development matters, from the design phase to prototyping and production. Even minor inefficiencies in any of these stages can lead to higher costs, wasted materials, market delays, and quality control issues.
This is why it’s crucial to optimize all three stages of new product development. When you take the time to thoughtfully plan your approach and work with product developers that have a keen eye for detail, you’ll achieve your dream of getting a high-quality product into your customers’ hands.
What Are the Stages of New Product Development?
The individual stages of new product development vary depending on whether you handle everything in-house or hire a third-party product developer for certain tasks. For instance, if you have a team of in-house engineers designing your product but you plan on hiring a contract manufacturer to make it, then you’ll likely spend more time and resources on the design phase than you will on the production phase.
However, whether you do everything in-house or you hire a product developer, all products essentially go through the same basic process before they reach the market. The three main stages of new product development are:
1. Design phase (typically two days to one month): Determining the physical and operational properties of the product.
2. Prototyping phase (typically three days to one month): Testing whether the product design is functional. If it’s not, you may have to return to the design phase.
3. Production phase (typically three weeks to one month): Manufacturing products for end-users. The steps involved vary significantly depending on whether you’re going straight to mass production or doing a beta run first.
If your system is efficient, you have all the resources you need, and you don’t run into any complications along the way, you could theoretically develop a new product from scratch in as little as four weeks. However, the process can take as long as three months—and sometimes more—if you experience unexpected problems or your system isn’t as optimized as it could be. Production time also increases if you have a complex design or your product has an exceptionally tight tolerance—that is, its measurements must be very accurate and precise.
So, while the product development process appears simple at first glance, there is actually a great deal of time, effort, and resources involved during every phase. To get a new product to market in a reasonable timeframe without going bankrupt, you have to break each of these phases down into smaller steps and consider every detail, no matter how minor. When you know what to expect at every stage of new product development and plan for complications along the way, you can protect your company from unexpected costs and delays.
How to Maximize Every Stage of the Process
New product development is hard work. Many entrepreneurs and startups make the mistake of jumping right into the development process without having a clear plan of action or direction. A few days of preparation could save you months of production delays in the future.
How do you prepare for all three stages of new product development? Here’s how to optimize each phase:
|1. Perform thorough market research to identify customer pain points or gaps in the market.
2. Brainstorm your design, taking into account functionality, ease of manufacturing, marketability, assembly, and aesthetics.
3. Select materials based on functionality and cost.
4. Meet with an experienced engineer to ensure your product is as functional and efficient as it could be.
5. Create a detailed model of your design (using CAD software, if possible).
|1. Make a quick working prototype of the design, ideally using rapid prototyping tools and cost-effective materials.
2. Evaluate the prototype and make changes to the original design as-needed.
3. Keep a record of all of your past designs so you can return to them if you run into a dead end.
4. Continue producing and testing prototypes until you reach your deadline or feel satisfied with the design.
5. Create a very detailed model of your final design for manufacturing.
|1. Decide how many products you’d like to manufacture (small scale or large scale).
2. Define tolerances for your product design.
3. Identify the equipment and machining you need to build the design as well as anticipated labor or engineering expertise. You also need to design a custom mold based on whether you’re doing limited production or mass production.
4. Obtain these resources or seek out a contract manufacturer that already has these resources.
5. If you work with a contract manufacturer, ask for a detailed estimate, including total costs or minimum order requirements.
6. If you manufacture your own products, put together a detailed budget that includes padding for delays, equipment downtime, changes in material costs, or other unexpected expenses.
7. Begin manufacturing and assembling your product.
8. Perform quality control tests.
9. Ship your product to your warehouse, retailers, or directly to customers.
10. If you plan on manufacturing more products, take note of any complications you face so you can refine these in the future.
You shouldn’t necessarily perform these steps in this exact order. For example, during the product design phase, it’s important to already know how many products you’d like to manufacture as well as whether you have the resources required to make a high-quality product. If you don’t have all of these resources, then you’ll need to start a conversation with a contract manufacturer right away. The best manufacturers will even help you with the design process to ensure these two stages of new product development work in harmony. Your design should dictate your production and vice versa.
Meanwhile, the prototyping phase is a test of what you had already planned during the design for the manufacturing phase. It can make or break your project. Sometimes, even the best theoretical designs don’t work out during the prototyping phase. If this happens, it’s important to regroup quickly and adjust your original design. It’s always more cost-effective to return to the prototyping stage again than it is to continue on to the manufacturing phase with an inferior design or product.
As you can see, the stages of new product development become quite complicated when you put all three phases together. You can’t hold a myopic view of each stage; they all influence each other. This is why many businesses choose to work with an experienced product developer that considers all of these important details and influential factors.
Finding a Reliable Product Development Consultant
For most businesses, the most efficient way to develop a new product is to hire a company that provides full-cycle product development services. That’s because many companies, particularly small and medium-sized ones, lack the resources and expertise they need to develop a product from start to finish. For example, even if you have a good handle on the product design, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you understand the production process. A third-party developer is there to fill in those knowledge and resource gaps.
They can also anticipate many delays and additional costs. For instance, they may know that the price of certain raw materials fluctuates throughout the year. To avoid price gouging, they will often buy the materials when they are at their lowest market price to keep an inventory of material on-hand for times when the market price is higher than usual. When your product development process runs efficiently and uses the most cost-effective materials, you’ll actually save money in the long run. An experienced product developer is usually worth every penny.
To find the right product development consultant, look for companies that emphasize partnership and flexibility in addition to resources and engineering expertise. Many product developers have a workshop full of manufacturing equipment, but not all of them care about your product as much as you do. A true product development partner will collaborate with you on the design and take every detail into account to save you time and money. They should be an indispensable part of the process.
PRL’s engineers have dozens of manufacturing options available to help you solve any challenge facing your product: CNC machining, custom tooling, 3D printing, thermoplastic molding, reverse engineering, and more. No matter what stage your product is currently at, we can create it and optimize it for manufacturing.