When project leaders reach the production phase, the clock is ticking as the race to get their product onto the market gets underway. Whether or not your project is successful will largely depend on getting the timing right. But this isn’t always easy. Indeed, the production phase is where the majority of start-ups fail. There are a number of reasons for this, but it is often down to a lack of familiarity with the industrial process.
First comes the idea, then the design, then manufacturing and then marketing. Outsiders might think that production is simply the next step following design and prototyping. In reality, production is a lengthy process that begins at the start of the design phase. Factoring in production from the outset is the best way of keeping a handle on development costs, saving you time on the whole project cycle. However, this can be a difficult exercise, and it is a good idea to surround yourself with experienced individuals capable of:
- identifying key needs to be met, such as maintainability, testability or optional extras
- evaluating the investment required for each project milestone (prototyping, pre-production, series production)
- evaluating the associated production costs
- building a critical path in the project schedule
- identifying the key suppliers and partners needed
“Plan ahead and take a balanced approach”
But there’s no need to panic. Just because you should be thinking about production from the outset doesn’t mean that you have to do everything right away. You should be thinking like a manufacturer when you start out, but you’re not going to be doing everything at the same time.
The first essential phase for any innovative project is the POC or Proof of Concept phase. Your POC will enable you to perform a full-scale test of your concept at a reduced cost. You can only assess the potential of a product by working carefully to identify product needs (how it works, how it will be used, etc.). At this stage your product will only have its basic functions – the design won’t be right, and you won’t yet have the right materials or components.
Then comes the prototyping stage. Whether given, rented or sold to initial clients (known as early adopters), you must make sure the product is capable of performing its main functions for several months and that you have corrected any major defects. Watertightness, ergonomics and the reliability of the built-in software are examples of functions that are needed at this stage of the project. This phase is also when you gather feedback, both from clients and from the manufacturer. All of this will help you to fine-tune the design of your product and to make sure pre-production runs smoothly.
Test, repeat and advance!
The goal of the pre-production phase that follows (although there may be more than one) is to improve the product through iteration and to reduce manufacturing costs. This is when you should be starting to think about things like appearance and reliability. You should also test how well the product is able to cope with accidents such as falls or crushing, as well as its resistance to frost, etc.
When manufacturing comes around, product qualification and certification will help you to get rid of any lingering doubts. Finally, the quantity of components ordered and the consistency of the volumes produced will help to optimise production costs.
Surrounding yourself with a panel of clients and experts from the world of industry can help you to juggle costs, timeframes and reliability, allowing you to maximise the customer experience while limiting financial risk and any delays on your schedule.