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:
- Greater complexity and regulations increase need for multidisciplinary cooperation
- More dispersed NPDI teams are required to deliver products
- 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.