How do I get my product idea from a napkin sketch to the buyers hands?
There are many books written about marketing and sales. But until you have something to sell, they make good reading but little else. So, you have a great idea for a new product, but the mystery begins here. How do I get it designed? How do I know it is designed correctly? What materials should I make it from? Should I make a prototype and how should that be made? How do I ensure that it is designed in the most cost effective manner? How do I get it manufactured? What is the best way to manufacture it? How do I know that manufacturing method is the most cost effective?
This series of articles will lead you through that process and provide you with some specific guidelines on getting through this process so in the end you have the product that you envisioned.
Assuming that you have satisfied yourself that you have a product that will provide you with wealth and fame, the first step is in your hands, and that is to define as well as possible what your product will be. To do so requires that you define how the customer will use it, what kind of environment it will be used in, what types of handling it may be subjected to, how big or small it can be and any other requirements which the designer (and yourself) will need to know. There are a number of sophisticated means to accomplish this. One of the most well known is QFD or Quality Function Deployment. I would not spend a lot of time using these types of methods, The keys for you are:
- What does the product need to do?
- What does it have to look like?
- What, if any, restrictions may apply to it (for example does it have to be UL, Underwriters Lab, certified? Do all of the materials have to be biodegradable?
- How does the user interface with it?
- What are the environmental conditions that it will be exposed to, i.e. is it out in the rain? Is it exposed to fertilizers?
- Any other specific information which will dictate how the product functions, looks or any regulatory requirements that it must meet.
In general your product will have either mechanical or electrical/electronic components in it or perhaps both. You will need to find a good mechanical or electrical engineer to see that the product is designed correctly. One important tip here: There are many good engineers out there. But, the key is to find an engineer who will not only design your product well, but will also design it so it can be manufactured and assembled easily. This is called DFMA or Design for Manufacturing and Assembly and it is key to holding your product costs in check. DFMA takes into consideration how each of the parts are made, how they fit together and how the completed end product is to be made. If this whole aspect is not thought out well and incorporated into the design, it will add excess cost to each unit that is made.
Your engineer, having satisfactory experience, should be able to work with you to develop a timeline for your entire project. While you may not adhere exactly to this time line, it will serve to give a good overview of all of the steps needed to get your product ready for market. In the next article in this series, we will list all of the items in a good project plan. This will give you a good useable tool to customize and use in your planning.
ARTICLE 2: STEPS IN A PROJECT
ARTICLE 3: WHAT TO LOOK FOR IN A GOOD PRODUCT DESIGN
ARTICLE 4: WHY IS THE MANUFACTURING METHOD SO IMPORTANT AND HOW TO CHOOSE THE BEST METHOD
ARTICLE 5:HOW DO I GET A PROTOTYPE MADE AND WHY DO I NEED ONE?
ARTICLE 6: HOW TO CHOOSE A MANUFACTURER AND WHAT TO EXPECT
ARTICLE 7: PRODUCT TESTING OR HOW DO I MAKE SURE THE PRODUCT WILL DO WHAT I WANT?
ARTICLE 7: WHAT MEANS SHOULD I USE TO ASSEMBLE MY PRODUCT?
ARTICLE 8: HOW WILL I KNOW THAT MY PRODUCT IS READY FOR THE CUSTOMER?