From Prototype to Production: 4 Things You Need to Know
From concept to marketable prototype to launch version to production to public release and continuing support, product development involves numerous stages, with each step of the process presenting its own set of challenges. Many startups have failed at one stage or another, most commonly due to a lack of knowledge or preparation.
The best that any entrepreneur can do is to plan carefully and avoid the common pitfalls of product development. In doing so, you can streamline the process and ensure that your product hits the market on time and in the form that your customers expected. Consider the following four factors for a smooth and successful release.
A common mistake is to focus more on features than functionality. This often leads to over-promising and under-delivering. In most cases, people don’t want too many fancy bells and whistles, they just want something that works. But that’s not to say performance is all that matters.
Aesthetics are just as important and nailing the visual part of your product involves understanding your market. You also need to use the right tools. If you’re producing an electronics device, for example, more accurate, efficient, and user-friendly software such as Gumstix can help you produce a better circuit board design in less time.
The bulk of your thinking probably goes to the final product, but what and where it will be in the long run also needs to be considered.
Both of these things can be achieved by incorporating extensibility into your product. An extensible design is one that can accommodate new features or changes in the future, thus helping you get more out of each iteration.
Most startups operate under a number of constraints, the most common being time. When determining how long a certain step will take, a good rule of thumb is to overestimate by 50 percent. This is especially important with hardware production, as there are physical elements to move around instead of just data.
For instance, when setting up a contract with a manufacturer, you’ll have to deal with documentation, quality control, and designing a repeatable assembly process. You can expect the first few parts to arrive with inconsistencies, so it’s important to properly communicate the range of specifications you deem acceptable.
Other steps that can take more time than expected include shipping and regulatory compliance. The latter is best approached by making time for testing and certification, such as CE testing and UL for safety and electrical, as well as FCC certification.
Consider In-House Production
If in-house production is possible, you can save a significant amount of time and money. Iterations can be created faster and issues can be solved sooner. Additionally, the human expertise and manufacturing resources you gain will serve as a valuable investment.
Planning ahead is key. Do what you can to save time and money, without impacting on the quality of your product.