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Understanding the New Product Introduction (NPI) Process

Creating a new product means managing a ton of moving parts simultaneously. You have to make sure your team is communicating effectively, so the design, prototyping, engineering, and manufacturing stages go as smoothly as possible. You also have to carefully manage the product concept itself and oversee each step between the design stage and the first manufacturing run. It’s a lot to keep track of, especially if you’re trying to manage daily business operations at the same time.

The New Product Introduction process solves this challenge. New Product Introduction (NPI) is the process of establishing a clear plan to take your product from concept to its final form. The steps involved in this process vary from project to project, but the end goals are the same: reduce waste, avoid miscommunication, speed up production, and save money. To have a successful project, you need to have an appropriate NPI plan and work with engineers or contract manufacturers that are well-versed in NPI. Here’s how you can use this essential managerial process to your advantage.

What is the New Product Introduction Process? 

The New Product Introduction process is a multi-step plan that takes your product from initial idea to market. However, it is more elaborate than a to-do list. An NPI process is carefully managed by a team of experts who track progress and perform frequent assessments at different stages to ensure the project is moving in the right direction.

The team generally consists of:

  • A dedicated project manager
  • Representatives from each department (for example, engineering, financial, and marketing)
  • Stakeholders (as few or as many as the project manager or primary decision maker would like)
  • Primary points of contact for contract work (such as the contract manufacturer, outsourced product developer, or engineering team)

Managing large teams with potentially conflicting ideas and interests is challenging, which is why the NPI team typically only consists of a handful of people who play a key role in decision-making and communication. The goal is to eliminate information silos and know exactly what each department or individual is doing to move the project forward. NPI is also designed to resolve potential conflicts or disagreements between team members. Every department’s voice is heard.

The New Product Introduction process ideally begins before the product has moved out of the design stage. The earlier you create your NPI plan, the more efficient the process will be. However, you can choose to begin this process at any point in the product development timeline. For example, if you hire a contract manufacturer to refine the design for manufacturing and fabricate components, then you may decide the NPI process isn’t necessary until after the first run of products is complete and ready to launch on the market. The contract manufacturer effectively manages their own team—and likely uses their own NPI process to do so.

One mistake that some first-time product designers make is that they take the NPI process for granted. They assume their teams know how to work well together and communicate effectively with contractors. However, this can lead to miscommunication and other obstacles down the line. Here’s why you should always take the time to iron out an effective New Product Introduction process.

New product development

Why NPI Should Be Your First Step in Development

The most obvious reason why you should use a New Product Introduction process is to keep your teams in constant communication and ensure everyone is hitting their deadlines. However, there are other significant benefits to using NPI, including:

  • Fast time to market: You’ll move from one development step to the next seamlessly, without having to pause to make sure the team is ready to move on.
  • Lower costs: Your team will waste fewer materials and other valuable resources on unnecessary prototypes or redesigns.
  • Higher quality products: Multiple people assessing the project at each stage makes it less likely that a design flaw or another problem with the product will go unnoticed.
  • Smoother manufacturing: When it comes time to manufacture your product, NPI makes it less likely you’ll have to re-engineer the product. The manufacturer was already looped in from the beginning and informed your team on how to create a product that would be easy to manufacture on a small or large scale.

It’s never too early to start thinking about NPI. In fact, starting this process while you still have just a general idea for a new product is the best way to bring that idea to market because you can get the expertise you need to perform every step of the development process correctly. Below, you’ll learn more about what to expect during the New Product Introduction process.

New product introduction processA Step-By-Step Guide to the NPI Process 

Your New Product Introduction process will likely look very different from a competitor’s. That’s because NPI is customized based on your project, budget, timeline, business objectives, resources, and team members. However, there are still a few basic steps that almost every NPI process follows from start to finish:

Step 1: Solidify the Plan 

  • Put together the NPI team.
  • Identify resources and requirements to complete the product concept.
  • Set deadlines and clear expectations.
  • Go over Service Level Agreements (SLAs).
  • Define team roles.

Step 2: Determine Feasibility 

  • Model the concept in CAD design software.
  • Create a process flow diagram or workflow for every stage of product development.
  • Evaluate the design concept and marketability using a Design for Manufacturing test.
  • Have the NPI team evaluate whether they should move forward with this design using an engineering verification test.

Step 3: Develop the Product 

  • Create and evaluate working prototypes of the product design.
  • Test the prototypes with beta users as needed.
  • Set up and evaluate the production space.
  • Begin gathering resources for manufacturing, including material forecasting and shipments.
  • Perform a gate review with the NPI team evaluating the practical and financial details of the manufacturing plan as well as the timeline.

Step 4: Run a Pre-Production Test 

  • Call for an engineering and design freeze.
  • Prepare the molds and tools needed to manufacture the product.
  • Begin ordering materials and other necessary resources.
  • Perform a product validation test run to ensure the production will go smoothly before fabricating on a larger scale.

Step 5: Manufacture the Product 

  • Manufacture the final product.
  • Perform frequent quality control tests for every batch.
  • Introduce the product to market.

Step 6: Evaluate the Results 

  • 30-60 days after the first production run, evaluate how the NPI process went and make notes on areas of improvement for the next production run or NPI process.

The last step in the New Product Introduction process is the one many product developers tend to overlook. Once the product is complete and on the market, it’s tempting to move on to the next big idea. However, carefully evaluating how this process went not only ensures that the products you release are high in quality, but it also teaches you valuable lessons about the NPI process so you can fine-tune it in the future.

How to Optimize the NPI Process 

The New Product Introduction process is only effective if everyone involved in the project agrees to participate in it. This includes contract manufacturers and other third-party service providers. Contract manufacturers and product developers should be willing to work within the framework of your process. This means:

  • Outlining precisely what they plan on doing and defining deadlines for your team;
  • Providing updates to key points of contact on a timely basis;
  • Testing designs, prototypes, and final products thoroughly before moving on to the next step in the NPI process.

An experienced product developer can even help you come up with an effective NPI process for your internal team. This is a great benefit for product inventors who are designing and manufacturing a product for the first time. The product developer knows exactly how to structure the NPI process for your specific product and can offer you tools and suggestions on how to keep every aspect organized from start to finish. This is why working with seasoned professionals is the best way to optimize the New Product Introduction process.

Pacific Research Laboratories has decades of experience creating efficient New Product Introduction processes. Not only will we help your in-house team communicate and stay organized, but we’ll also walk you through our detailed plan to take your product from idea to market. If you need help organizing your next project, visit our contact page or call (206) 408-7603.