The journey of developing a physical hardware product and bringing it to market can be challenging. Often the quality of product development impacts the likelihood of commercial success. At Prodrive Ventures, we invest in early stage businesses helping them develop their hardware products, and are familiar with the challenges facing these entrepreneurs. Below we share three tools of physical product development to help along the journey:
The process of benchmarking is about understanding the established market. This will involve analysing every aspect of the competitor products ranging from the user interaction to the manufacturing methodologies, assessing the relative merits & demerits, and understanding the opportunities in the market. This may sound obvious, but the exercise will help position a product and inform the areas to focus concerted efforts.
Not only is this process important for establishing where the unique selling points are, but also for creating value through intellectual property. If there is a desire to obtain protection, it is important to establish that an innovation is truly novel and ensure it does not infringe on existing intellectual property.
The specification document collates all the information relevant to the product attributes. The creation of the document will help define the product; what it will aim to do or the value it will provide to the customer, and it essentially becomes the design criteria. The information should outline objective and subjective targets. Such examples could be mass of the product, material selection, colour & finish, manufacture volume quantity, ergonomic and dimension considerations.
Many of the elements are inextricably linked. For example, the manufacturing process will impact the material selection; therefore a balance must be struck that is coherent with the go-to-market strategy.
There are other benefits to creating a product specification. Unlike a sudoku puzzle, which you cannot solve through division of labour, the product specification is effectively the common song sheet that allows many people or companies to co-ordinate work to achieve the desired goal. This is often required if the product depends on the collaborative input of many disciplines.
Ensuring that your product performs as desired and complies with the necessary standards before it reaches the market is a critical step. Unlike software where the cost of making amendments is often negligible, making changes to physical products can be very expensive.
The timing of this exercise is particularly important if large expenditure commitments, such as tooling, must be made to manufacture the product. It is worth bearing in mind that it may not be possible to fully validate the product before such commitments.
Prototyping can help you mitigate this risk by testing aspects of your design, but it will fundamentally be limited by the methods and materials used, and may never be fully representative.
If you are developing a hardware product, The RAPID Challenge has been specifically created to support such projects. Find out more on www.therapidchallenge.com