Simplified Product Development Process – Manufacturing (2/2)
This article is the second out of two we wrote about product development process and it focuses on manufacturing. You will find our FREE infographics on product development process in the previous article.
Manufacturing of New Hardware Electronic Products
When a development team is finally (almost) confident about the product, ordering tools for injection molding is the next big step as it is usually one of the most expensive manufacturing setup costs. It takes anything in between one to two months to build a mold (in China). Then, a factory will run a few test shots of injecting plastic into a newly build molds. Often, molds need additional tweaking. All of that might take additional 2-4 weeks after the molds have been constructed.
So, speaking of plastic parts, you can expect to rump up production in about 2-3 months from the moment you pay for the mold. Of course, it can take longer if you have a more complicated injection molding process or issues with color matching. Some products might need less than two months to confirm everything. Once again, things do not progress linearly, but rather exponentially.
We talked more in details about EVT, DVT, and PVT in this article. We’ll just summarize them below.
The first (EVT – Engineering Validation Test) production run is to check what has been done during development and production of prototypes. A targeted production should be somewhere in between 20-50 units. The question is: does the whole thing could hold up at all when scaled? The focus is on functional testing of products. In other words, engineers run operations, not factory works. If there is an overlooked bug with the product, this sample size should be large enough to uncover that bug.
The next production run (DVT – Design Validation Test) has a bit larger sample, but the focus is on optimizing the production process, assembly, and testing.
The final production run before production ramp-up is Production Validation Test (PVT). Usually, the sample size is a few hundreds of units. The focus is to set up workers on the production line, provide them with training sessions, and lock down quality control process. It is not surprising that pilot production units can go directly to consumers if everything went smooth. When it comes to DFM and DFA, they should be locked down latest during DVT production run.
We have talked about certifications in one of our previous articles. We will point out a few more things here.
Timeline for getting certifications could be anything from one month up to months (for FDA approved products). The cost can vary a lot, from a few thousand to hundreds of thousands of USD.
This is where the choice of targeted markets play a significant role. There are no universal certifications for the whole world, and if you plan to sell in 20 countries, you might end up applying for five different certificates. And it happens that a product gets necessary certificates for the US, but not for EU, Japan, Brazil or maybe Russian Federation.
Also, a PVT or DVT sample could fail to pass tests. Testing labs will tell you what to re-work. But, if that means building a new mold, that situation will set the project back for at least two months and inflate the costs. When to send a product for testing? By regulations, you will have to send exactly the same product as the one you’ll be selling to the end consumers.
However, for projects who got funding through a crowdfunding platform, this particular requirement might be too risky. People tend to prototype their housing, put the final electronics in and send them for certifications right after the system integration. And it makes a perfect sense from the cost perspective. If a product needs some changes, the earlier in the process, the better.
Testing labs compete for their customers, too. Some will agree to “pre-test” your prototype and let you know if there is something that has to be improved. The only thing you’ll need to do is to make sure that you will do certifications with them (read: pay the bill right away). In that case, you can already send a prototype for certification.
Shipping and packaging killed many successful crowdfunding projects, or in the best case caused one to three months of delays. Sending a large batch of products from China by sea should be accounted for about one month.
Sending a small product, and in small quantities, by air is then faster, and sometimes even cheaper. Fees can vary a lot from country to country, and the shipping can last anything between a few days (by air) or a few weeks by the ocean.
So if you’re planning to run a crowdfunding campaign, pay close attention what shipping options you offer to backers. NEVER promise free shipping “anywhere in the world” unless you’re 100% sure you can handle it. Limit number of countries to which you’re shipping to.
The most important about the packaging is not to forget about it when planning a budget and product development timeline. No, it’s not a joke. It is unbelievable how many teams either forget or underestimate packaging. It’s not a sin if you want to create an exceptional unboxing experience. But if you think to do it for 1-2 USD per box and without paying for a custom design, then you’re very wrong. Sometimes structural requirements might be high if a product is fragile, or big, or maybe heavy. In that case, the pure material cost will be high.
Start inquiring packaging as soon as you have a first close to the final industrial design. Just 3D print it, include extras such are cables, chargers, manual, and send it to packaging companies for quotations.
If you plan to sell your products in retail stores, packaging has to be visually attractive and to tell the story of the product within seconds. But if you’re just fulfilling your Kickstarter campaign, off the shelf carton boxes with a sticker instead of printing can finish the job.
For a custom manufactured packaging, it takes from 6 to 8 weeks from the moment you start working on it to the moment you have the first batch delivered IF everything goes smooth. So think about it in advance.
There are a few things we would like you to take away from reading these two articles.
- Pay good attention to the ideation phase. Spend a fair amount of time in research before engaging in a long and costly process called new product development.
- Define product requirements as specifically as you can. It will pay off each hour you’ve spent on this task.
- Product development is not a linear process.
- Manufacturing is a costly process and therefore take it conservatively.
To stay updated with the new content and resources NOA Labs will be sharing with you, just subscribe to our blog if you haven’t already.
Is there a more specific topic you would like us to talk about? Let us know in the comment section below.