Product Development Process
The Design Brief
A statement of intent, the design brief states the problem to be addressed. It serves as a starting point from where the design team can orient themselves. By itself however, it does not offer sufficient information with which to begin the actual design process.
The Product Design Specification (PDS)
A vitally important but often overlooked and misunderstood stage, the PDS document lists the problem in detail. Before working on producing a solution, there needs to be a deep understanding of the actual problem identified. This document should be designed after conversations with the customer and an analysis of the market and competitors. The design team should refer back to it often for correct orientation at later stages.
The Concept Design
With the PDS document as a guide, the design team will now begin to outline a solution. At this stage, the design is largely conceptual, with a framework of key components in place with details to a later stage. The details included at this stage will depend on the type of product being designed. It is important to understand both upstream and downstream concerns relating to the product at this point. These may include activities such as manufacturing, sales and production costs among other things. This early understanding of the value chain will help eliminate or reduce rework and multiple iterations.
In this stage, concept generation and evaluation are both a vital consideration. Multiple concepts, each fulfilling the product requirements previously identified are identified and then evaluated to decide the best way forward.
The Concept Generation
At this point, a design team may involve a larger audience to help brainstorm the details of concepts drawn up in the previous stage. A group that includes various expertise may end up being the most successful in terms of creative ideas and solutions. It is pertinent to encourage all ideas to be voiced as this increases the chances of innovation.
The Concept Evaluation
With a number of potential concepts in hand, a suitable design now needs to be chosen that fulfills the product design specifications previously generated. This document should serve as a basis for final design decisions. Again, a multi skilled team should be involved here so that all angles of the chosen design can be evaluated. The concept that is closest in solving the problem identified and fulfills the most design requirements will now be developed in detail.
The Detailed Design
At this point, the final concept has been chosen and most obvious kinks have been worked out. The concept is now designed in detail with the necessary dimensions and specifications. At this stage, it may be important to produce one of more prototypes to test the product in close to real scenarios. It becomes vital for the design team to work in close cooperation with other units such as manufacturing and logistics to ensure the practical aspects of production and supply.
Eliminating Design Iterations
Although traditionally sequential, multiple iterations within these stages can be reduced by asking the following questions:
- Manufacturing: Can we make the product at our existing facility?
- Sales: Are we able to produce what the customer wants?
- Purchasing: Do we have required parts available or do they need to be ordered?
- Cost: What will the design cost us to make?
- Transport: is the product sized for available transportation methods? Will there be any special transportation needs?
- Disposal: How will the product be disposed of at the end of its life?
PRODUCT DESIGN TYPES
Two basic categories encompass most product designs. These are:
Demand – Pull Innovation
Demand – Pull happens when a product design can directly take advantage of an opportunity in the market. A new design works towards solving an existing design issue. This happens either through a new product or a variation of an existing product.
Invention – Push Innovation
This innovation occurs with an advancement in technology or intelligence. This is driven through research or a creative new product design.