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3 Key Shifts Changing Business for Product Innovators

New product development (NPD) and new product introduction (NPI) practices have shifted drastically over the last decade as companies increase the pace of innovation to survive and prosper in the face of customer demands for greater performance at a lower price, increased global competition, and more stringent regulatory requirements.

Product innovators now face the challenge of coordinating globally dispersed teams to design, test, and build ever more complex products on even tighter schedules and budgets than ever before.  The three shifts in business that matter to product development are:

  1. Greater complexity and regulations increase need for multidisciplinary cooperation
  2. More dispersed NPDI teams are required to deliver products
  3. Connected devices create challenges along with opportunities

Shift 1: Greater complexity and regulations increase need for multidisciplinary cooperation

High-tech electronics product complexity grows as innovators add new features to fend off global competitors and participate in increasingly segmented market niches. Technology and medical products are leveraging Moore’s Law, coupled with advancements in areas that include sensors, lasers, and displays, to rapidly add features and functions. Products, like Wi-Fi enabled teakettles and Bluetooth door locks, increasingly incorporate more electronic and software components. Software now constitutes a significant development effort for most electronics companies and plays an expanding role in many other industries. It is critical for mechanical, electrical, and software engineering teams to collaborate more effectively during early NPD to eliminate quality and functionality issues during NPI.  For instance, the design of a cell phone enclosure must be closely coordinated with the antenna design to achieve wireless coverage requirements while also meeting electromagnetic emissions regulations. Furthermore, ensuring designs are consistently built to specifications requires paying closer attention to design for manufacturability (DFM) practices.

Medical device electronics manufacturers face even more NPDI (NPD and NPI) challenges due to global regulatory and legal compliance burdens. The European Union (EU) adopted two regulations that will force medical device manufacturers to provide substantially more clinical evidence to support claims of safety and performance. Of course, the EU is just one of an increasing number of issuers of standards and regulations. Other regulations and directives come from the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA); the International Organization for Standardization (ISO);  Underwriters Laboratories (UL); CSA Group; the Registration, Evaluation, Authorization and Restriction of Chemicals (REACH); the Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive (WEEE Directive), and U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (on conflict minerals). Today, managing product development processes while maintaining compliant systems and processes requires greater visibility and sharing of information throughout the product release process than ever before.

Shift 2: More dispersed NPDI teams are required to deliver products

NPD and NPI are sometimes used interchangeably, but they address two different points in the product realization process. NPD focuses on concept generation, the engineering and design process, and commercialization of the new product. NPI begins near the end of the development process and continues through product launch. The later NPI stages require more collaboration with globally dispersed teams to effectively plan, procure, manufacture, and ship products to market. These complementary processes overlap and span the entire concept-to-launch process. NPD teams must engage NPI teams earlier to prevent procurement and production issues.

Thirty years ago, NPD was largely a one-company affair with in-house engineers designing the product and handing off to internal manufacturing resources. Today, the norm for original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and original design manufacturers (ODMs) involves internal engineering teams around the globe—such as a hardware group in Sunnyvale and a software group in Bangalore—and often includes external design partners. High-tech consumer electronics and medical device OEMs and ODMs design complex products; thus, they increasingly rely on outsourcing of production to global contract manufacturers (CMs) and additional first and sub-tier suppliers. The most common approach is to select best-of-breed CMs in various specialties such as field programmable gate arrays (FPGAs), printed circuit boards (PCBs), injection molding, castings, and final assembly. With so many CMs and suppliers, the need to act as a single virtual company is crucial to successfully introducing high-quality products.

Shift 3: Connected devices create challenges along with opportunities

In addition to navigating regulatory and legal compliance, product companies should also consider how their products integrate with the Internet of Things (IoT). Many consumer electronics products are already equipped with wireless technologies (e.g., Wi-Fi, Bluetooth) that serve as a gateway to IoT and make it possible to add new capabilities, including automatically collecting information from products in the field at minimal cost. This field performance data offers the potential to identify design and quality weaknesses and understand customer usage patterns.

IoT connected devices are generating vast amounts of data used to provide breakthrough functionality, understand the customer experience, track products up and down the supply chain, and help improve product functionality and customer support. NPDI teams are tasked with taking full advantage of this data, while also protecting the privacy of customer information. With this new IoT paradigm, multidisciplinary design and development teams must ensure the seamless operation between one or more ecosystems like Amazon Echo or Google Home devices with voice recognition.

Summary

Today’s companies are creating and launching new products with more complex and connected technologies. To compete, they are relying on global best-of-breed design and manufacturing partners that must work together in real time and be able to turn on a dime to avoid quality issues, manufacturing errors, and, ultimately, product launch delays.

NPDI challenges can be overcome by connecting all teams throughout the product realization process with a cloud-based, single source of truth that encompasses mechanical, electrical, and software assemblies. This enables internal teams and their external supply chain partners to collaborate anytime and anywhere. Employing a single system to manage, change, and release the latest designs in context with quality, project, and compliance information is the best way to keep distributed teams on the same page throughout the entire product lifecycle. Freed from countless administrative and coordinating tasks, the NPDI team can focus on increasing the pace of innovation to speed product launches.

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