Global Manufacturers Require Connected New Product Development Processes
What Is New Product Development (NPD)?
New product development (NPD) in the early development processes required to develop new products. It requires an understanding of market needs, competitive offerings, and the overall market. Although NPD tends to be creative, it requires a systematic method to bring everything together to release quality products on time and on budget. Having well-defined product development processes early on will speed development and ensure a smoother transition to new product introduction (NPI) processes, where the products are launched and commercialized.
Key New Product Development Steps
Depending on the NPD model subscribed to, the number of phases or steps varies based on the granularity of the definition. For our purposes, we’ll discuss five key steps:
- Concept. The concept step sets basic direction and boundaries for the entire development process by clarifying the type of product, the problem the product solves, and the financial and technical goals to be achieved by the product.
- Ideation. During the ideation step, the team brainstorms to discover some of the many ways a product can solve the problem and meet internal goals. Ideas are evaluated and the most promising are selected for further investigation.
- Design. It’s in this step that the execution of the best way to create and construct the product happens. Engineering details are generated to flesh out the high-level concepts from the ideation stage.
- Test. Product testing helps determine whether there are issues with the product’s design and manufacturing process. Thorough testing will prevent costly production issues during commercial launch and volume production, so it’s critical to avoid shortcuts for the sake of releasing new products quickly.
- Release. During the testing phases as the product evolves from concept through prototyping, teams outside of engineering will be involved and new product introduction (NPI) processes will overlap in preparation for full commercialization.
Continual Iteration Drives Continual Improvement
New product development processes involve iterative design and collaboration processes to optimize the design for cost and functionality. It requires a cyclical process where information learned is applied to continually improve product design and functionality. As issues are discovered and opportunities to improve product design or reduce costs appear, product design teams will repeat the same steps until the product design achieves the intended results.
To compete in today’s global and highly competitive market, complex product companies must be ready to “turn on a dime” to incorporate input and make necessary changes fast to the entire product record, which includes many off-the-shelf components and manufactured assemblies that comprise the full bill of materials (BOM). During design, companies often ignore or bypass form-fit-function (FFF) rules for the sake of moving rapidly through the NPD process to release products. Having a unified system of record in place, where everyone has complete visibility and opportunity to collaborate in real-time, reduces the likelihood that teams will take unnecessary shortcuts or ignore best practices.
Eliminating Silos Is Critical
Product lifecycle management (PLM) solutions help define, control, and release products, which is even more critical with distributed teams and supply chains. Keeping track of all the changes and specific revisions to the BOM and associated drawings, documentation, and specifications is extremely difficult if your company is relying on disconnected or manual processes comprised of Microsoft Word, Excel, CAD design systems, and email. Trying to collaborate with multiple teams with disconnected silos of information increases the chance that players and teams will iterate on the wrong design during NPD and into the NPI stage.
Better Control and Visibility
Once all the iteration, design, and testing have been completed, operations and supply chain teams get more involved to prepare for launching the product to market. Lessons learned during prototype and limited manufacturing stages help optimize sourcing, planning, and ramping to full production. To ensure smooth transitions from new product development to new product introduction, it is essential to leverage a single, controlled system of record for all impacted teams from engineering to operations to supply chain partners. PLM provides a single source of truth with real-time visibility to those involved in bringing products to market.
Three Keys to Improved Control:
- Set Up the Right Level of Access. You don’t want everyone to see everything. Engineering teams should have access to the entire revision history so they can collaborate, iterate, and improve designs while reviewing both the past and current product definition. Manufacturing teams should only have access to the latest design to avoid building earlier product designs by accident. Supplier and contract manufacturers should not be able to see their competitors’ information or cost details within the complete multi-level BOM that defines all off-the-shelf components and assemblies. Cloud PLM systems provide flexible and powerful role-based privileges to ensure each player and team only gets access to information key to their role in the development and production process.
- Track Change History. Having an automated system that tracks changes, revisions, and history of review and release processes ensures that all key groups involved in bringing the product to market have a way to analyze possible issues later and determine how and why the product design or manufacturing process was altered. PLM systems are designed to track and control the product design and development process throughout the entire product lifecycle.
- Streamline Controlled Collaboration. Be sure to give access to everyone involved in development and commercialization as they need it. Eliminate manual tracking processes and reliance on email to avoid having conversations around the product that are not linked directly to the product or part of the assembly being discussed. PLM systems allow teams to share controlled comments, change orders (ECOs), quality issue resolution, and project tasks in context to the product design at all times. This ensures that all teams will have better visibility and an increased understanding of any changes that occur during product development and realization.
Streamline New Product Development
Arena provides a unified cloud-based system to aggregate your entire product record designed by mechanical, electrical, and software design teams. It provides control and a full audit trail of the design changes as you iterate on product designs throughout the NPD process and move into NPI. More importantly, it provides the necessary flexibility and speeds time to market (TTM) with automated change, project, and quality processes.
We have over 1,400 customers worldwide that rely on Arena’s product realization platform to streamline product development processes. If you need to bring complex products to market with distributed teams, Arena provides the best way to ensure your high-quality products ship on time.
The new product development process is all about creating and defining the next new product. It involves lots of change at all levels of the BOM and NPD steps are often reiterated.
By managing changes with basic processes or even a revision control system in place you’ll stop wasting time on tasks like looking for the right documents. You’ll also keep everyone aware of what’s changed and by whom. A centralized system can provide everyone access to the right product information regardless of where they work—at office headquarters, home office, or global manufacturing sites. As a result, you get a smoother transition as you move from NPD to NPI.