Innovators come from all walks of life and different levels of knowledge. Some have a detailed understanding of what it takes to design a product and bring it to market. Others may not be as well-versed in the steps. However, all innovators have something in common. Even though they’re approaching the product design stage from very different levels, they all need to follow three product design best practices if they want to succeed.
Three Product Design Best Practices to Optimize the Product Creation Process
There are many inspirational stories out there about inventors who were trying to create something simple and accidentally stumbled upon something groundbreaking. However, the reason those stories are known is that they’re unusual. The truth is the vast majority of successful products are a result of careful, strategic planning. That strategic planning includes following these three best practices:
#1: Fully outline the product’s story
The story is the motivation for the product in the first place. Consider the story of Resusci Anne, the world’s first CPR manikin—and precursor to all those in use today—who was created by two physicians and a Norwegian toymaker named Asmund Laerdal. Laerdal dabbled in making test wounds for the military as a side job and decided to delve a bit deeper when he heard about a new technique that was saving lives; CPR. He switched to dollmaking to create a life-sized, realistic manikin for training others. Laerdal’s entire idea was based on solving a training problem. CPR was promising but there were few options to realistically train in it. Laerdal, who had no formal medical training, became the person to solve that problem because he knew what was needed and had the assistance of the right experts.
This is often the case in the process of creating a new product. The individual will have the concept and possibly some knowledge of how to create it. However, they might not have the engineering experience needed to build it or create a usable design. In this case, it’s important to be able to communicate the full product story to an engineer with experience specific to that type of project. That individual is going to need to understand that product, and the product story is the summary that explains it best. Developing a compelling (and relatable) product story can be challenging; however, each product story should clearly address the following:
- Know your audience. Who is the intended end user?
- Understand the ultimate goal of your design. What real-world problem is this product should ideally solve?
- Recognize the barriers associated with getting your product to market. What are the acceptance and failure criteria? Will this product be used in critical systems (for example, in industries like aerospace or medical devices) with strict acceptance criteria?
- Clearly communicate your timeline. Is the release of this product time-sensitive? How much time do you have for potential iterations?
#2: Design for manufacturability
If a product’s creation process can’t be easily replicated, mass production won’t be an option. As the product is designed, the engineer details how to build it and create any tooling needed in the process. By designing with those factors in mind, creators eliminate waste in their eventual supply chain, minimizing cost and speeding up the process for production. However, designing for manufacturability isn’t necessarily an intuitive process for a layman, so again, it is wise to work with an experienced engineer.
Someone who does most of their production and manufacturing in-house is the strongest candidate. These individuals will be well-versed in what it takes to quickly create a quality product. Having specific experience in a similar category of products is ideal, as they will likely have a few solutions to common manufacturing problems with products of that type. Designing with mass production in mind is a value-engineering skill that helps the creator cost-effectively offer products to mainstream markets.
#3: Perfect your design with computer modeling
Computer modeling is a massive time saver that allows creators to test their design using a computer program to map known variables. A preliminary design sets the base for the engineer to review and tweak the potential product, sometimes multiple times, before it is physically developed.
Rendering will provide insight into its aesthetic appeal, while testing can help reveal how the product will respond to various scenarios and environments, so any changes needed can be easily implemented (for virtually zero incremental costs) before the product goes into development. Computer modeling also provides an excellent window of opportunity to examine whether the design follows DFM best practices and accurately reflects the product story outlined in the initial stages of development.
Working with a Collaborative Engineer
It’s wise to work with an engineer who takes a fully collaborative approach to product creation. They will follow the above three practices to ensure the creator gets the exact product they envisioned, in a scalable, manufacturable, and cost-effective way. A collaborative, experienced engineer will be able to creatively overcome any obstacles in the project.
Product design best practices centered on thorough product stories, design manufacturability, and detailed computer modeling poise products for success. Communication ensures there are no surprises and the end result is expected. Collaborative engineering can take a product all the way from a simple idea to an industry-disruptor.
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.