They sometimes say that movies are caught in development hell, endlessly rewritten and roles recast in an attempt to get a final design that can go into production. Did you know that the same thing can happen to physical product designs? If you’re constantly revising the design, trying to make it perfect or simply changing the definition of good enough, it may never be built. Someone may come up with a new bread and butter product for production. Now you’ve wasted time and money. Or your rival may realize the same needs exist that you wanted to fulfill and win just by coming up with something to market first. Either way, your business loses out. Here are a few tips for speeding up your design process.
Bring in Suppliers Early
This could be as simple as ordering the prototype be made by a contract electronics manufacturer. They’ll take your rough designs, make improvements based on their experience, and create a working prototype you can test. You could partner with them to take your working prototype and turn it into a mass producible item. They’re the experts in concept refinement of design for manufacturing. They may even provide this advice for free to simplify the job of making your product. In a worst-case scenario, you learn that your go-to suppliers aren’t capable of making it. Then you can go back to the drawing board to make it easier to manufacture or you can find new suppliers well before you’re behind schedule.
Have Customer Testing Throughout the Process
This is a key tenet of agile product development. Have customers give input regarding requirements, test plans and the actual tests themselves. Then you don’t waste time refining design elements they hate. Instead, you’ll pursue the solutions the customers prefer and make changes that they approve of. This saves everyone time and money.
Create Formal Design Processes
Formal design processes like agile give you a way to ensure that everything you need to do gets done. For example, formal processes for gathering requirements, verifying requirements, reviewing the design and testing it ensures that you don’t have a working prototype that misses essential design elements. And you won’t leave out key stakeholders like manufacturing engineers. We recommend reading this whitepaper on how to include design for manufacture in your formal design process.
Take Advantage of Simulations
Simulations are a 4D version of your 3D computer models. Simulations are reaching the point where they’re almost as good as real-world testing. They will make computer models for each part in an assembly from an iPad to a jet. They’re tested for potential interference fits, heat transfer and stress failures under load. There is always a possibility that the computer models are wrong, since bad assumptions will result in incorrect outcomes. It could be as simple as underestimating making a typo in the stress tolerance of a material to dramatically underestimating the risk of something happening.
You can’t test for every situation, either. This is why concept toys are given to children to test. You find out how they’ll really play with it and what they’ll do with it. Household goods and electronics should be tested with customers, as well. Where do they try to plug in the charging cable? How do they actually hold it as they go about their day? This is why simulations shorten the testing cycle but don’t eliminate the need for human testing. But customer feedback throughout the design cycle reduces the need for human testing at the end, since you learned that the menu option on the webpage or the button array on the first prototype were awkward to use.