Product Development Planning — Measure Twice, Cut Once

Triumphing as a market leader vs. experiencing the letdown of product failure often boils down to proper planning at each stage of the product development cycle. Inadequate planning can lead to schedule slips at any phase of product development, costly expedites, and delay your product’s time-to-market. In a worst case scenario, it can lead to costly product recalls that will hurt your bottom line and can be fatal to your brand.

Some common schedule pitfalls include:

  1. Design errors caught after the prototype run has already been released
  2. Failing to address component lead-time issues or component End-of-Life (EOL) issues at the start of the planning phase
  3. Firmware delays holding up the finished printed circuit board assemblies (PCBAs) from moving forward with test and system integration
  4. Choosing the wrong partners for your product requirements – Is most of their experience with IPC Class 2 or IPC Class 3? Does your partner state “compliance” as opposed to certification for ISO 9001, AS9100, ISO 13485 etc.?

The following stages are what you should expect to get your product from sketch to finished product:

Planning Stages – Define product and communicate with all global partners via conference calls/Skype/face-to-face meetings with all parties involved to discuss feasibility, regulatory requirements, budget and schedule.

Release Scope of Work – At this stage you can start getting an idea of budget and schedule requirements with Rough Order of Magnitude (ROM) quotes. Be sure to plan for customer review time at each gate of the design.

Software/Hardware/Mechanical Design – At this point, you should be working with partners to confirm they have the equipment and experience to handle your product requirements. Work with the PCB fabrication house to determine the PCB stack-up and Design for Manufacturability (DFM) requirements, and confirm the assembly house has the right equipment/operators to build your product (e.g. do they have the proper IPC and J-STD certifications, and can their pick and place, reflow machine and wash handle the PCB size/technology?).

At this stage, prototype any mechanical or plastic components and order tooling as soon as the design is solidified to prevent delaying the schedule as you get further into the development cycle.

Purchasing Material – Place orders for any long lead components as soon as possible to prevent manufacturing delays once the design is finished. Plan to order one lot of material for all of the prototype and pilot runs and add in attrition for possible damaged or lost material on the assembly line. Buying one lot of material for all of the builds helps save money and mitigates the risk of component stock-outs/lead-times.

1st Article/Prototype – a first article run helps determine the success of the initial design. It reduces the risk of scrapping the entire lot of PCBs if there are issues, which saves time and money in the long run. If the first article is a success you will be ready to release the balance of the prototypes to the assembly line. At this point, start pulling together the required regulatory documentation – First Article Inspection Report (FAIR), packing slips, certificates of conformance, etc.

Rework – Now is the time to rework as needed if you caught any mistakes from the time the design was released to the time prototypes were manufactured. Typical rework can range from adding jumpers to debug wires and/or removing and replacing components.

Test/programming – Test procedures and firmware and programming should be determined during the manufacturing process to prevent delays. Procuring multiple test fixtures will help expedite testing.

System Integration – Once PCBAs have been tested it is time to start integrating the plastic and mechanical components.

Re-design – Multiple re-designs may be needed based on the complexity of your product. Work with all of your manufacturing partners and request DFM feedback to help ensure the success of your re-design.

Pilot runs – The success of the initial design and product complexity will determine how many pilot runs are required. You can scale up the quantities as you get more confident in the success of the design.

Send for Regulatory Approval as needed – FAA, FDA, FCC, UL, CSA Group, etc.

Release to Production – The moment we have all been waiting for!

Contact NPI Services, Inc. for all of your New Product Introduction needs. NPI will work with your product development team to help maximize your product’s time-to-market while minimizing cost and schedule. Measure twice and cut once for your next product development cycle. Call NPI Services, Inc. today!