The Role of Product Requirements in Sustainable Product Development
Consumers want to lower their environmental impact by using more sustainable products. Legislation is encouraging sustainability as well. These new circumstances highlight the need for requirements management at product companies.
The latest legislation for the right to repair is a new requirement for some product developers and manufacturers. The legislation worldwide aims to extend product lifespans and boost circularity, consequently reducing unnecessary waste. The legislation intends to facilitate consumer and independent company repair of products by requiring manufacturers to provide the documentation, tools, and parts needed to make repairs. The objective of these programs is to increase product longevity and boost the repair sector.
Using requirements management to improve sustainably and comply with emerging right-to- repair laws from an Arena perspective
I recently spoke with Ann McGuire, Director of Product Marketing for Arena, a PTC Business, and Michelle Stone, Senior Product Manager, to share some thoughts and observations based on their experience and expertise with requirements management. We covered topics such as developing sustainable products using a requirements management process, how Arena’s requirements management solution can help manage NPI, and what lies ahead with the new global push for rights to repair.
Can you both briefly touch on why organizations need requirements management? Can requirements management help with sustainable product development?
Effective requirements management makes sure new or improved products meet market needs and business goals. In other words, it’s key to a successful product company. Requirements management is the process that collects, prioritizes, verifies, and validates product requirements. To meet today’s market expectations, product companies need to define their product sustainability goals as requirements. Sustainability requirements can include recycled content, recyclability, reusability, transitioning to a circular economy, and leveraging sustainable frameworks such as sustainable development goals (SDGs) or environmental, social, and governance (ESG). A sustainability requirement example is “use 85% recycled plastic.” In a product development process, requirements are the destination. If companies want to produce sustainable products, developers need clearly defined requirements. To paraphrase Yogi Berra–if developers don’t know the product requirements, they’ll never design it correctly. Requirements management is essential to meeting product sustainability goals.
Integrating requirements management with your product development process enables cross-functional teams to stay aligned and deliver more sustainable product designs. Since an estimated 80% of a product’s environmental impact is determined during the design stage, manufacturers must consider reusability, recyclability, repairability, and other green requirements early in the development cycle. Having requirements integrated with your product design means that all the cross-functional teams collaborate in one system to meet those requirements. Therefore, if you care about ESG goals and initiatives, using requirements management helps.
What solutions do product companies use for requirements management?
We see product companies use spreadsheets, product lifecycle management (PLM) requirements management modules, stand-alone requirements management systems, or homegrown systems to manage requirements. Spreadsheets are by far the most common at product companies today. A requirements spreadsheet often lists all the requirements with descriptions, priorities, and reasons. The problem with using spreadsheets or other siloed systems is verifying and validating that the product meets the requirements. Many product companies today use Arena Requirements capability with the product record to simplify verification and validation. They use Arena to control new and revised requirements to make them available to the design team as well as quality, compliance, and operations.
How does PLM help with requirements management and sustainability initiatives?
In terms of ESG initiatives, the reason companies need to track sustainability in their requirements management is so they can report against it to make sure they comply with these regulations. That ties back to why you have, and why you’re using a quality management system (QMS) or a PLM system. It’s what I believe is one of the top three reasons you have a PLM—to have the ability to report against information, having it in one place which helps reduce time. And, to look at it through the lens of sustainability—what does it have to have in terms of a carbon footprint or in terms of other components like recyclability or what type of materials go into making it? That’s all defined at the business requirement level. You have your high-level features and marketing needs and you could have other information tied to sustainability.
Do you see requirements management playing a role soon regarding consumers repairing their products? Does the right-to-repair legislation pose more damage than good?
As more legislation for right to repair becomes mandated for consumer products, I can envision how requirements management will play a role in how development teams are going to align stakeholder needs while trying to cater to consumer requirements. I believe it’s going to require a lot of planning, strategy, and a systematic understanding of the laws and regulations. As for the pros and cons of right to repair, I can see both sides of it—why companies may not want people to do it just from a safety perspective and from the consumer side. The thing I worry about is whether the company is going to sacrifice quality if they think people are going to do it themselves. I believe there’s value in having right to repair, though I wouldn’t open my iPhone and try to repair it myself. I also think about the environmental impact. Many companies have turn-in programs that help the environment where you exchange it for a new one. The company can repair it to resell or donate to a charity. I think that’s helping the environment more than if I take it apart myself.
We just had the right-to-repair law passed in my home state of Minnesota. It requires many manufacturers to share parts and information with independent repair shops and do-it-yourselfers. As a consumer who does minor repairs on appliances with the help of YouTube videos, I thought it was obvious. I should be able to repair it myself or go wherever I want to get my products fixed. Yet, one concern is certifying repair shops. Without certification programs, anybody can hang a repair shop sign. That’s a risk. I’d want to know that the shop technicians are trained, especially with the complexity of, say, mobile phones. This is already practiced in the auto repair industry—where increasing technology requires ongoing training. Similar programs should work for high-tech repair shops. Product companies should monitor the markets they want to sell in, so they know exactly what the regulations are and figure out how to comply with these laws to sell in that market. To product requirements–they will need to provide documentation and replacement parts to support these businesses.
Optimize product development with Arena Requirements Management
Every new product has an array of requirements to meet. Whether they address sustainability, regulatory compliance, functionality to solve an identified consumer need, customer-driven, or making your product parts repairable to meet new legislation mandates—the goal is to excel in every stage of product development—from concept to commercialization.
With Arena Requirements, your product development teams can excel in all phases of product development to compete globally.
Learn how Arena Requirements Management makes it simple to improve your NPI success and deliver better products, faster.