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Product development survey says...

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How do small and mid-size manufacturing companies operate today? And do these firms anticipate growth over the next five years?

Last December more than 200 small to mid-size manufacturing firms (thank you!) participated in the Arena Product Development Survey. The respondents represent a range of industries—high-tech electronics, medical device and diagnostics, automotive supply chain and various others—and more than half are employed at companies with 200 or fewer employees.

The results offer some insight into current product development practices and trends.

The Arena Product Development Survey results…

Product complexity

We asked companies about the products they manufacture…. 36 percent make one hundred or more products, while the others make fewer than one hundred. 40 percent offer more than five models of each product; 60 percent, fewer. For 28 percent, the typical product has fewer than twenty-five parts; for another 20 percent, the number of parts in a typical product tops five hundred. The others fall somewhere in between.

New product introduction (NPI) and product change management

We learned about the frequency of new product releases and product changes…. New products are released four or more times a year for 41 percent of respondents, while 20 percent release new products only once a year. More than 90 percent anticipate growth in the number of products and/or product lines they offer, including 15 percent who anticipate explosive growth.

Design & supply chain partners

When it comes to working with partners, we learned that a majority of respondents involve external parties—like design partners, suppliers and contract manufacturers (CMs)—in their product development processes…. 66 percent work with more than five custom (i.e. made-to-spec) part suppliers, while 57 percent work with more than two contract manufacturers (CMs).

Looking ahead

Results from the Arena Product Development Survey suggest a bright future for manufacturing, with a majority of respondents anticipating growth in the next five years. Outsourcing looks to remain prevalent, as firms continue to leverage partners to help build their products.

How does your manufacturing business compare?

If you didn’t get a chance to participate in the survey, we’d love to hear your thoughts now. Where does your company fall on the continuum of product complexity? Are you planning to expand your offerings in the future? At what stage (if any) do you involve partners in your product development processes? Please add a comment and let us know.

About the Author

Michelle LaVery

Michelle’s focus at Arena is online marketing, including managing pay-per-click programs and helping more manufacturers find Arena on the worldwide web. She has worked at Arena since 2001 and loves ...

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