You can’t completely avoid modeling and prototyping — these processes are the lifeblood of any product development cycle. But you can do more than you realize to streamline them and reduce their bottom-line drag without compromising quality.
Start with these six super effective strategies.
1:- Design for the End User
Whether it’s a production line component or a children’s toy, every product has an end user. Why wouldn’t you design yours with that party in mind?
Make it a rule to utilize the principles of end-user design, or usability design, throughout your design phase. It’s better to spend more on market research and conceptual testing upfront than to discover a fatal flaw in a finished product.
2:- Use Fused Deposition Modeling for Rapid Mock-ups
Fused deposition modeling, or FDM, is an incredibly versatile 3D printing (additive manufacturing) process that’s ideal for rapid mockups and prototypes. If you need to see how a finished product is likely to look, or you’re previewing a market-ready design ahead of a low-volume production run, there’s no better choice.
3:- Outsource Engineering in a Pinch
Not all early-stage companies have requisite in-house engineering talent. If you’re running lean, keep the focus on what your team excels at and outsource engineering and design to an external partner. In the short term, this is sure to keep your development timeframes tight, and it may well reduce your medium-term R&D costs as well. Be aware that outsourced engineering and in-house modeling aren’t mutually exclusive — when you’re ready to mock up, you’ll want FDM or another additive manufacturing capability on standby.
4:- Run a Design Review
Before your first prototyping run, conduct a design review. If you’re not yet familiar, review Design for Manufacturing / Manufacturability guidelines to ensure you’re barking up the right tree. Fix critical issues before you go any further; there’s no use prototyping a product that won’t pass manufacturing muster.
5:- Execute a Simulation Test Before the First Modeling Run
Follow your design review with a simulation test — essentially, a stress test that looks for inconsistencies and usability issues in your final design. Working out these kinks before you produce your first prototype controls the number of tangible models you need to produce, reducing final design costs and speeding time to market.
6:- Follow Project Management Best Practices
Devise and implement project management best practices that can scale with your business’s burgeoning product development needs. The Project Management Institute identifies five linear steps to better project management:
- Develop project management roles and consistencies
- Assess existing staff against those competencies
- Roll out training and monitoring plans to fit these roles and competencies
- Flesh out your knowledge base and support infrastructure as resources allow
- Monitor continuously and identify areas for improvement on a rolling basis
Modify these steps as appropriate and keep the focus on what works.
What’s in Your Secret Sauce?
Every successful enterprise has a “secret sauce” — a patented (if in name only) approach to doing business.
The main ingredient in your secret sauce may be a penny-pinching ethos. It could be a particularly potent piece of intellectual property. Or it might be an ultra-lean take on modeling and prototyping.
If it works, it doesn’t really matter what your trick is. (Assuming it’s right with the law, ethics, and your company’s human resources practices.) A healthy bottom line speaks for itself.