Ever wonder how to make the world’s most expensive paperweight? Fall victim to these three common product design mistakes and you may get your chance to find out.
The product development process involves input from a variety of sources, all of which are equally important. In the early stages of the product development lifecycle, the look and feel of the product begins to take form with involvement from engineers, industrial designers, and product designers. What are the most common mistakes made during this early product design stage of product development?
• Industrial Designers and Engineers Don’t Talk
Product designers and engineers are key teams in the product development lifecycle that must collaborate efficiently in order to properly achieve the product goals of functionality, aesthetics, and human factors. When industrial designers and engineers collaborate effectively, the team has a good chance of meeting their time-to-market, functionality, and cost objectives. But when communication breaks down and the teams adapt a “throw it over the wall” mentality to just get the job done, the project can result in an over engineered paperweight.
This team synergy and cooperation is important across the entire process and includes everyone involved. When different firms are hired to perform the industrial design, engineering, and prototyping work, it is even more critical to properly manage the integrated teams. If you have hired a manager, you should expect he or she to hire all external firms concurrently, set design and engineering objectives based on the product specifications, and hold design reviews with all stakeholders at the same table.
Typically, an efficient interaction between industrial design and engineering teams starts with each team providing the constraints that exist in order for each individual team to meet the product objectives. In this case, the engineering team would communicate the product architecture constraints and the product design team would communicate the design constraints. The two teams then evaluate each of the other team’s constraints and determine which can be accepted and which impact their objectives. An unbiased program manager is brought in to mediate any conflicting constraints by using the program priorities list (cost, schedule, features) as guidance to make decisions. This back and forth communication and conflict resolution is absolutely necessary for success.
• Rampant Creativity – Great for Picasso – Bad For You
Creativity is an integral part of product development but rampant, unfocused and unconstrained creativity can can be disasturous. Managing innovation and creativity is no easy task but the right manager can handle innovation and creativity and still accomidate realistic expectations that are in line with the program objectives.
It’s said that the product design determines 80% of the manufacturing costs. While this statement is debatable, it is a fact that the product design does have an impact on the product cost. In order to properly scope the product design and industrial design work, the product cost goals must be taken into consideration along with the aesthetic, human factors, and user interface goals.
If your budget is tight, it’s recommended that the needs of the engineering team are weighted more heavily than those needs of the industrial design team. This might sound like a ridiculous way of keeping within the budgetary constraints but is in fact the most practical. When the team is up against product cost or budget constraints it is best to have the engineers utilize the technologies that are less costly and easier to integrate, resulting in lower product cost and reduced product development spending. In situations where a larger product development budget is available, the product design team can influence and drive the technologies used by the engineering team.
• Ignoring Design for Manufacturing
Design for Manufacturing (DFM) is the method of preparing a product design for manufacturing by utilizing the rules and requirements for each of the fabrication technologies to be used. Proper DFM results in a product with higher quality, more repeatability, and lower cost. Here are some ways to be sure that the design for manufacturability is not ignored:
• Make manufacturing engineers a key part of the product development team.
• Do not wait until the product design is complete and approved before discussing DFM.
• Implement DFM into the design review discussions from the beginning of the project.
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