Here at KD, we often get asked the question: “Is it possible to go factory direct?”
Our answer is yes. It is possible to go factory direct and create a successful product while meeting the cost and time constraints. However, that is subject to choosing the right factory as well as having full access to all your original design files, CAD files, your schematics, etc.
Most importantly, you must not rush the product development, even when a factory makes it seem like shortcuts are available.
In this blog, we will explain why you should never rush the product development process, as in most cases, doing so can result in costly errors.
Why you should never rush the product development process
It is tempting to look for shortcuts during product development and new product introduction (NPI). Especially if you have set out an ambitious timeline for launch that the product’s success depends on.
In our experience, those shortcuts often prove ineffective in the long run. Here is why:
- Taking the time to create an innovative and high-quality product can result in long-term market leadership, despite it not being the market pioneer. Innovation comes in many forms, and it is often the case that the products that took longer to develop and refine became more successful than the original pioneers. Take Apple as an example – although phones like Nokia or Blackberry were available on the market much earlier than iPhone, they have not sustained the leadership and have now been forgotten by many consumers.
- Rushing product development can lead to miscommunication between the developer and manufacturer. While detailed product documentation may seem like a tedious task that is a bottleneck in your product development, it is a critical part of the process. Rarely does a product reach the NPI stage without an unpredictable error emerging during the testing phase. It is difficult to go back in time to find out what is wrong if the files are not available for your team.
- All of this has hidden, unplanned costs in the long-term due to rushed processes and extended timelines. One missed deadline for product release is not the end of the world. But missing several of them because of miscommunication with the supplier and lack of documentation will extend the timeline significantly enough to impact the finances. This will become a problem whether you are working with investors or funding the product with your own capital.
To sum up, rushing the product development process can often mean that not only will you not make the initial deadline, but that the product release will have to be pushed further to make up for the shortcuts.
Case study: Factory direct gone wrong
A couple of years ago, we were helping a client who had a goal to release their product before Christmas. They missed the deadline and decided to go factory direct because they believed it will shorten the lead times and the product will be on the shelves before next Christmas.
In reality, not only did they miss Christmas that year, but also next year due to a high rate of errors and miscommunication which compounded the delays over time. This was all a consequence of the lack of developed engineering documentation, as well as poor manufacturer qualification.
Here are some key takeaways from this experience:
- Rushed prototyping can lead to major timeline delays in the future
- Rushed product documentation can lead to an incomplete product, with room for user error
- Take more time to develop a product that is the best it can be, rather than having to go through multiple iterations in the future – mistakes in software are cheap, mistakes in hardware can be incredibly costly!
Stages of product development
Now that we have established that product development should never be rushed, here is how the product development process should look like.
Research and product development strategy
Every great product begins with a crystal-clear strategy and concept. In this stage, you need to choose your product feature set and select the right technology to facilitate it. This will depend on the cost of technology, speed to market, and the complexity of your product.
Thorough research on consumer behaviour and preferences, competitive landscape, and latest technologies will prove beneficial at this stage in order to design a product that is both useful to the end consumer and feasible in terms of technology.
Lastly, once you have a viable plan and clear product strategy, it is important to think about what materials to select for the product. This is where the usability, durability, and overall functionality of the product will be solidified.
Once completed, you will have a clear idea of what the product will look like, who is the user and how will they benefit from the feature set. This will inform the decisions about what goes into making the product in terms of technology, components, and materials.
Product design and development
This stage is crucial to your product as you begin to develop the Product Requirements Document (PRD). The purpose of the PRD is to allow all your stakeholders to understand the purpose and value of your product. PRD is a living document and it will be edited and updated throughout the product design and development stage.
Building physical prototypes that encompass form and function with cost considerations is a critical part of the design and development process. In order to do so, you will need to choose the prototyping methods that work best to help refine and perfect the product. There are many methods to choose from, including cosmetic prototypes, breadboards, proof of concept, looks-like, and works-like prototypes.
Once your prototypes are built, it is time to review the potential functionality of the product, and whether or not there is room for improvement in terms of cost optimization, speed to market, and attractiveness to the user.
This stage takes the longest, as it is likely you will go through several iterations of the prototype before you are satisfied with the result. Rushing this process often leads to unsatisfactory results during the validation testing stage, which will cause you to go back to refining the prototype.
The importance of validation testing
Validation testing is the stage where any shortcuts will definitely come back to haunt a product developer. EVT, DVT, and PVT, allows you to identify the direct cause of errors and eliminate them promptly. The best way to set yourself up for successful validation testing is to allocate sufficient time for product development.
We have written a comprehensive article about the differences between EVT, DVT, and PVT which explains in detail what is evaluated during each test.
How we can help
KD Product Development is a product development consultancy with 100+ years of combined expertise. Our team of experienced engineers can be there to assist you from the conception of your product, as well as later stages. To find out how KD can help with product development, have a look at our dedicated service page.
Contact us today if you’re ready to get to work on developing your product.
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