So you have an idea for a new product and want everything to succeed during each step of the new product development process. But things will not always go the way you planned. You might find that something was wrong with your design, manufacturability, usability, or performance. Each time you fix one thing, you keep hoping you will get it right next time. Did you know that by trying to get it right each time, you can actually prolong the new product development process?
What if you had a solution to eliminate that element of surprise? We follow the lean product development cycle, which helps our clients identify and reduce the risks associated with their new product development. You can accelerate your new product development cycle by following these three guidelines.
1. Recognize your assumptions
Ask yourself, “What else am I missing?” New product development brings inherent risks which introduce unexpected challenges. As humans, we have a tendency to suffer from optimism bias, which means that we assume the best outcome will occur in uncertain situations. In our experience, the level of uncertainty for new products is much higher than most people believe.
You want to be honest with yourself about your level of uncertainty. Take the time to poke holes in your predictions. Ask other people where things could go wrong so you can get a more diverse perspective.
2. Disprove your assumptions
You want to ask, “How can I prove myself wrong?” Yes, you want your assumptions to be right, but you really want to know whether they are right. And you want to know that as early as possible. Sometimes you can prove assumptions wrong more quickly than you can prove them right. Your temptation will be to assume one iteration will get you to the finish line. In the best case scenario, it works and you can move on. But in new product development, rarely does the best-case scenario happen.
New products break new ground, so the likelihood of failure during each iteration runs high. If you can find out whether it will work in advance for a fraction of the cost, that would make economic sense. Would you rather spend a dollar to see whether it will work or a nickel to find out it would not work? You can multiply that benefit by the number of iterations.
3. Test early
Ask yourself, “How can I mock up a design that will test my assumption as quickly as possible?” You want to disprove your assumptions quickly. This means you want to test your assumptions quickly. This means you want to prototype quickly.
We have seen many clients rush through their new product development and end up slowing themselves down in their haste. Investing the time to manage risks can save you time and money. A case study illustrates the concept.
A medical client needed an overmolded container. The substrate had a heavily ribbed area. This ribbed area was necessary to maintain uniform wall, which would prevent sink, and maintain the geometry for the intended function. Simply put, the flat wall had to stay flat in order to interface with the mating component, which also had a flat wall.
The Natech Engineers created some samples based on the original design with the heavy ribbing. But during sampling, they found bumps or bubbles on the overmold in the heavily ribbed area and could not process the bumps out. The bubbles caused an aesthetic nonconformity on the visible surface of the part.
The client made a design change that they believed would eliminate the bubbling, seen in the image below. This involved updating the mold to remove one portion of the ribs. But after making the mold change, the bubbling remained, and the client turned to Natech for help.
A new tool modification would take several weeks and might or might not have worked. The Natech Engineers followed the four steps of Lean Product Development.
The Natech Engineers knew that the design had horizontal and vertical ribs that came together at intersections. This created pockets in the substrate. The team hypothesized that these pockets could cause the bubbling issues. Those pockets might have been trapping gas and air. The gas could not properly vent from the tool.
To incorporate these design changes and test out the hypothesis, the engineers manually removed the horizontal ribs from the substrate. They wanted to allow the flow to push the gas so that the gas would vent out through the parting line.
The engineers tested their hypothesis by cutting out the ribs in the substrates. You can see the part with clipped ribs below. The substrate does not look pretty, but as a mockup, it worked. They took these substrates to the press to overmold them.
After overmolding, they found no more bubbles. They concluded that the pockets formed by the ribs caused the bubbling. They then made the change in steel, ran new samples, and found the bubbling nonconformity alleviated.
The Natech Engineers accelerated the new product development process by recognizing their assumptions, forming hypotheses to disprove their assumptions, and creating quick tests for their hypotheses. The process of lean product development allows products to go through an iterative process of testing and improving. Following this cycle helped the client avoid spending unnecessary time and money.
Matt Roane, Process Engineer
My customers want quality parts from a repeatable process. I give my customers confidence in their product by performing Moldflow simulation and scientific molding, which gives them insights into the quality risks in their design. We can then optimize part quality from an injection molding standpoint during the design phase. Let’s optimize your application. Call me at (631) 285-2427.