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Getting a product out in the open world requires time and money.
Beginners and people who underestimate the process and risks associated face difficult challenges and pitfalls.
This article aims to break down the process to help you understand the different stages/milestones and the engineering going on behind the development of a product.
We'll look at the 5 different steps required by engineers to cycle through prototypes that move closer and closer to a functional and marketable product over time.
We'll look at the different steps of product industrialization through one of the products we built for our client: Sharelock
Essentially, it's the process that makes you go from left to right, keep reading to understand what we mean.
Industrializing a product makes it go from a design stage to mass production, it requires the careful consideration of social, technical and economic constraints:
The process is relatively complex and often relies on industrialization engineers that must:
For example, a product that’s built to last will use tougher materials, it should have less moving parts that may fail over time due to the stress factor. One that’s designed with a short life time in mind can use cheaper materials, ones that may be less sturdy or good looking.
Having to mass produce a product also means that the production line should be as automated as possible to minimize costs, quality checks should also be frequent to ensure the technical standards are met, but these also can’t be too frequent as it would raise costs.
The work force has to have a precise guideline, most of the time, they work on one specific section of the product and might not know how their work affects the rest of the production line. Production also isn’t linear, failures can happen, people might be out of work because of a lack of resources, what do they do in this case, do you pay them to do nothing ? You have to make sure they move on to another sector to help the overall process.
Design engineers also make choices that sometimes aren’t feasible from a technical standpoint or would cost too much to produce, these three entities have to understand each other and cooperate while ensuring that their own domain works to the best of its abilities.
Let’s now look at why people consider industrialization.
The most obvious reason is economic growth.
By industrializing a product you raise your overall costs because you now spend more on workforce, automation and selling the product but you also get a lot more of your product. It’s now your job to make sure you raise your production enough to ensure your costs don’t outway your revenue.
Most of the time, increasing your production capacity means you get more money at the end of the month. A few risks to consider are costs and making sure you can actually sell these products. Having leftover stocks while producing new ones could momentarily stop your production line and significantly increase costs (you still have to pay your workforce). This is one of the main risks in production, it’s important to know how to deal with quantities.
Another important reason is developing your consumer reach.
Producing more products means you have to sell them to more clients, it’s not the same people who are going to buy your products, you have to reach new audiences, maybe even new countries to sell them. Achieving this means these people are going to look at your brand, maybe look at the different products you have, and buy more than what they came for. Think of yourself going to IKEA, you come in wanting a chair but you also find a nice table, a lamp and a new knife which you desperately needed.
This process comes with several risks, we’ve already discussed the need to balance stock quantities and production, quality is another one. By reaching more customers, you also have to ensure that every single product you sell is of the same standard as when you used to produce it by hand. It’s easy to ensure that your 10 handmade tables are all sturdy and well built, you know have to do that for thousands of products. An unhappy bunch of customers could well halt your progress.
Industrialization’s main purpose however is to meet a demand.
Introducing a revolutionary technology to the world means everyone will want to get it’s hand on it, you then have to deliver. If you don’t they’ll find their own way of making your tech or go through a rival. This means you have to industrialize your process to ensure quantities are met and that you can deliver.
Product industrialization can be thought of as a fully functional, autonomous and efficient product line, spitting out thousands of top quality products by the hour, but to reach that, products need to go through several cycles.
To help understand the process of industrialization, each step is accompanied by a real world example from one of our projects called Sharelock.
This very basic prototype helped us test our intuitions and get the basics right, from this we understood which problems we would be facing later on, where the paint points were. We validated the locking mechanism, and the attachment system (to the pole).
These devices can still be made in house if the ressources are present but most of the time will be outsourced as scale starts to come in. This is a great time to try new designs and adjustments for the internal and external parts.
This step means you've got a design that your users and you like, from this point on you should have a good idea of your main product and which parts need improvement.
Details are added such as the brand name, the focus is now on reliability and ease of use, get the UI/ UX right to make the best product possible.
Product industrialization is important, it’s a careful balancing act between cost and quantity, the engineers behind it serve as mediators between design, manufacturing and sales. It takes several iterations to put a product on the market and make sure it's built and tested correctly.