Most ideas, good or bad, begin with excitement and purpose, but often end in a frizzle. This is because the process of taking an idea through design and manufacturing can be a complex business, not to mention expensive. To drive your idea to market you need to plan your progression with patience, perspective and financial prudence.
There are three key areas to consider: financial value; how the product will be created; and how the product will be marketed. Along with these considerations are several stages of development that will progress your vision to tangible completion; this is known as ‘visioneering’ which is the process of making a vision or a dream a reality; building a concept into a workable application.
Problem and solution: the idea is born
Opportunities abound everywhere. And usually they are born out of a problem, an inefficiency, a gap in the market. Or often they are highlighted by the needs or complaints of customers. These issues become grist to the mill of invention and innovation, backed by the motivation of course, that there might be money to be made. You begin at this point to think about solutions, specific target audience, cost of design and production.
Cost analysis and possibility: how unique are you?
Not every product idea has guaranteed potential. Some ideas may sound useful but be prohibitive with regard to costs of production, making it simply unviable to produce. Levels of initial investment to design and fabricate need to be carefully assessed. Long-term returns have to be measured against initial outlay. How different is your product? If you are facing stiff competition, you must take these considerations on board at this point, long before you initiate production.
Market research: competitors, patents and copyright
So what are your competitors up to? How will you differentiate it in marketing? Initial product research is vital to ensuring someone else is not already in the process of making the same thing, or if already made, that you are not infringing on an already patented concept or copyright. This is the point where you must conduct thorough investigations before making decisions.
Review and polish: potential viability and impact
Designs begin to come to life. Digital designs help to test products against various conditions, environmental considerations, and help to highlight potential errors. During every step of development, the design needs to be tested. Research and product development agencies can help by creating virtual representations of products. Increasingly, smart machines can identify flaws or areas for improvement in drawn designs before they even reach the prototyping stage. Refining the product at this stage helps to ensure it will be competitive with others already available in the market. Elements that must be reviewed include: Performance characteristics; Engineering requirements; Industry or government regulations; User safety; Sustainability; Cost targets and price points; Manufacturability.
Design and engineer a prototype: material, characteristics and durability
Your next stage is key. Prototypes are a vital element of the product development stage. A physical representation means you can test your product in real conditions, highlight flaws in use and ease of use. This step is fundamental to reducing uncertainty and risk before you launch. It is also the time where you will establish the efficiency of the product in meeting customer needs. Here you can determine best characteristics and durability, and the best material to be used for the product. Building the prototype can involve hand-making the item, 3-D printing, CAD design, or a working prototype. Once it is a working entity, it must be tested in-house to again highlight flaws and areas for improvement.
Test and refine: alterations, flaws and usability
Testing potential viability and impact now sees engagement with engineers and technical experts, and eventual testing with trusted target customers for feedback. This process will give you tips and advice on how to polish your product, and how to meet the requirements of your target customers. This feedback will give you the information to iron out any last minute flaws and inconsistencies in order to bring the prototype product as close to final production as possible. Manufacturing will use this tested prototype as a guide to create working models. Testing and refining is vital at this early stage and may be costly, but is very helpful in decreasing costs later on.
Production: keeping an eye on the ball
During the manufacturing planning phase, all aspects regarding suppliers, supply chain, partners, distribution, and packaging must be taken care of. You need to be aware and prepared for: any anticipated problems, adjustments and solutions, setup and management of production, methods of distribution, branding, marketing and sales perspectives. If sizing is involved, then don’t prematurely launch without all sizes available. And finally, be prepared to keep an inventory of all stock in warehouse and on distributor shelves.
A marketing strategy: awareness, solutions and customer service
Potential customers should be top of mind throughout the entire innovation process – after all, they are the reason for your innovation. Once you have developed a product that ostensibly will resonate with targeted customers, marketing strategy must align with production and final sales forecasts. You need to make potential consumers aware of the product, promote its benefits, and stir up demand for the product before it reaches the shelves. Marketing is the vehicle for designing campaigns, building product awareness, generating leads, and creating demand. All of the tools of the trade in the marketing sphere should be utilised prior to the product launch, and all sales channels factored into your strategy.
Masterminding the future
You need to ensure that manufacturing and engineering partners will be available to fix issues or respond to concerns from customers in the early marketing and sales days. Depending on your business, the development and launch of a new product may take a number of years. The future of your product’s evolution should be considered. Current adjustments may need review; will there be next-generation development? Taking a product to fruition through the engineering process requires tenacity, agility and a clear vision. Remember, the experts are there to help you engage with, and pursue your dream.
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