The 7 Basic Steps of the New Product Introduction Process
New product introduction (NPI) is the process of bringing an original product idea to market. Experienced engineers are very familiar with this. But for those of you who are new to electronics manufacturing or who work in other departments within your organization (such as Sales, Finance or Supply Chain), this overview can be very beneficial.
The NPI process can differ widely from industry to industry. Generally speaking, NPI of an electronics product can be broken down into seven steps: devising a concept, creating a 3D model, developing the electronics components, prototyping, testing, determining final costing and creating a bill of materials, and finally, preparing for mass production.
Whether your product is next-gen in a product line or an entirely new concept, the first step in NPI is to lay out your concept. The concept will drive the rest of the process, so it is important to spend some time fleshing out your idea before you proceed.
As you develop your product concept, ask the following questions:
- What needs are currently unmet in your industry or niche?
- What are the most common complaints, questions, or shortcomings of existing products, and how will your product address those issues?
- Who is your target audience, how will you reach them, and how much will they be willing to pay for your solution? The development budget and final product target price become factors at this point.
- Who are your competitors (if any), and how will your product be different or better than theirs?
Working through these questions will help you refine your concept. Once you have settled on a concept, you can move on to determine what kind of printed circuit board (PCB) design you’ll need and create a 2D concept rendering.
2. 3D Modeling
Once you have your 2D rendering, you will be ready to create a 3D model. With a 3D model, you can examine your product in great detail to further refine your design. 3D models accurately depict an object’s real-life proportions, giving you a clear idea of what the finished product will be like. Lighting, texturing, and shadowing can be added to your 3D model, making it easier for sales and marketing personnel to offer input on the design. 3D modeling will help you determine the details and specs of the final product and build a high-quality prototype.
3. Electronics Development
Next, a schematic of the PCB can be created. The goal in PCB development is to come up with a circuit board that is not only highly functional, but also cost-effective and practical in size. Next, the PCB design is laid out, evaluated for possible flaws, and debugged.
In addition, the vast majority of electronics products contain some kind of microcontroller or integrated circuit that functions as the “brain” of the product. This controller must be programmed. In some cases the person who designed the PCB will also be able to handle the programming, but in other cases a software engineer will be involved.
At this point, your concept should be ready for prototyping. Prototyping allows for the discovery of issues that only arise when you have a physical product in your hand, thus reducing uncertainty and decreasing risk at launch. Building a prototype will help you determine:
- What is the best medium or material for the final product
- Which elements are critical to the final product, and which are unnecessary
- If the finished product will have the durability it needs to withstand the stressors it will face in real-world conditions
In many cases, you will need to build multiple prototype revisions until the design is refined to the point where the product is functional and can be tested.
Once you have a prototype, the next step is to test it for function and durability. Both in-house and external testing can be highly valuable at this stage. Consider issuing the prototype to multiple trusted partners for beta testing. Ask them to submit feedback, including suggested design changes or upgrades.
While it may seem costly to create multiple functioning prototypes, beta testing like this can significantly reduce your costs in the long run. Problems can be identified and resolved before mass production begins, saving you the cost and waste of producing a final product with significant flaws.
6. Final Costing and Bill of Materials (BOM)
Once the product prototype is created, tested, and finalized, you will need to create a summary of all of the materials required to build the product, along with their respective costs. Completing your BOM and final costing will enable you to source the best suppliers who can help you save money without sacrificing quality. If you have engaged potential suppliers throughout the process, you have a leg up here and should (hopefully) come in at or below the target price that was established back in Step 1.
7. Preparation for Ramp-up to Mass Production
The final phase of NPI involves ironing out all aspects of production, including selecting manufacturing partners and suppliers, supply chain, distribution methods, packaging, and staffing. At this point you will arrange with your chosen supplier (or suppliers) to include your product in their production line. It is ideal to work with a single supplier for the PCB manufacturing and product assembly whenever possible, rather than separate factories for each. Supplier selection is key to producing an affordable and high-quality product.
But before you begin production, there are a multitude of details to work through, such as:
- Setting up and managing production
- Obtaining help for production or post-launch activities from a manufacturing partner
- Working the new product into your supply chain after the initial launch
- Packaging and marketing your new product, and
- Determining what distribution methods you’ll use
Before you launch, you’ll also need to ensure you have adequate inventory of all sizes or configurations of your product in stock. Working through these details before production and launch can result in significant time and cost savings and a smoother, less stressful product launch.
Trust Macrotech With Your New Product Introduction Process
You don’t have to be a well-established company with all necessary resources in house to successfully develop your product. That’s where Macrotech comes in. With our design and engineering services, we cost-effectively expedite the design and production of new products, improve legacy products, and achieve substantial cost reductions through Design for Manufacturing (DFM). And with our on-site production management, our customers realize extraordinary proficiency in production control, quality control and document control at the factory.
Schedule a call with us today to learn more about how Macrotech can help you navigate the new product introduction process and bring your concept to fruition.