From time to time we are presented with the question, Do I have enough. Did I get enough wine for the party, should I get extra lumber for this project just in case? Have you ever driven back to the store when you guessed wrong? In product development, this same question comes up all the time.
Have you ever fixed something or heard someone talk about fixing something complicated? If so you may have also heard the saying, if there are parts left over, it was fixed right! This is said in jest, but from experience, it sometimes seems that way. When developing a prototype for a client, we create many parts that end up in the final product and some that don’t. We typically end up with extra due to the nature of the product development process but how much is too much.
In most cases, a project comes to the point where a mockup or prototype needs to be created. This is to get a sense of size, look, or feel or it is purely to evaluate functionality either sometimes it is to do both. Especially in that later stages of the product development process, all the above are essential. Not only that we are now we are getting into user testing, investor demos, taking pictures and video to create marketing content, instruction, and training material. So how are these efforts affected by not having enough parts?
Plan for the, What If?
Let’s explain this with a functional prototype. A client asked us to solve a problem, and we think we have it figured out, (on paper anyways). We finish the 3D models, prints, schematics, etc, and get a quote for all the parts to build one unit for testing. Now remember, we are testing something that has probably not been done before and one area of the product’s functionality is experimental. Should we order more of the parts we think could fail, do we come up with an alternative design as a plan “B”. Either answer could be correct, and with the use of Failure Modes and Effects Analysis (FMEA) we should have the best guess as to which direction to go. (More on that in another blog). Either way, we could end up with spare parts if everything goes smoothly. Now you may be asking yourself, why not order more parts only if you still need them or something goes wrong? We could always order more parts only after we find out we need them but here is how that may be costly. First, it may be because of the additional shipping cost. Shipping charges can become a significant cost of a project if not appropriately managed. Sometimes these parts are custom and have long lead times to create and may push the project past a deadline? Sometimes components are ordered to complete a prototype for investor demonstration or a PR event. If something goes wrong how does that affect funding the project?
Sharing can be counterproductive
We create a prototype for a client and they receive it for evaluation. At this point, our client is pretty excited. They want to use the prototype as well as show it around. That is what we like to see but there may still be work to do to evaluate the prototype and to proceed with additional development. This is hard to do when the client has the only copy of the prototype. This can make things more difficult when the client is not local. For local clients, different challenges come into play. For instance, with a more complex project, more efforts may need to be executed at the same time. The client may want to use the whole of the product for mockups and marketing efforts. The product development company may need to test and document functionality. Not having enough prototypes may limit or restrict further development causing delays in the total product development life cycle. This also creates extra work for both the development effort and the client’s efforts when trying to share prototypes for both. The labor involved sharing prototypes can be more expensive then if more prototypes were created to tackle both efforts at the same time. This does not take into account the lost opportunities plus wear and tear created by trying to share prototypes.
Recycling in the Product Development world
Old parts can be new again with a creative team. A good product development team will have a few tricks up their sleeve. What does this mean? During the development process, the design team will get very familiar with the product and its components. With each iteration of the design, previous design elements and components could and should be reused. In some cases, a feature may be planned into a design but not implemented to save from overcomplicating the design cycle. Doing so means that some previous components may only need to be modified instead of recreated or better yet can be backups just in case. This kind of thinking and capabilities can save, time, component cost, and shipping. What if you’re a few versions downstream in the development process and a component fails during testing. Having the ability to use an older component to fill in for the broken component can save the day.
Part of seeing a project to completion is managing development costs with the client. The Hendey Group can help you with your first, second or even tenth journey to create the next great widget. Give us a call at 317-550-4006 to learn how we can make your next idea a reality.