Product Data Management

Photo: Luis Llerena

Product data management might seem like the dull, formal work associated with any product design workflow. After all, it’s far from being as exciting and challenging as the creative product design and engineering work. However, product data management actually has a great impact on product design and project efficiency, especially when it comes to complex product designs and/or long projects. Accurate and comprehensive product data management is a crucial aspect of the product design workflow and a key parameter for effective product designs and successful products.

The three main elements of product data management are CAD files-, BOM- and Product-Brief- Management. In this article, I’ll share some working methods and tips about these three product data management elements.

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From Design To Production

From Design To Production

New product design and development is a great challenge. It requires creativity, skills, knowledge and resources—but R&D is only part of the work needed to launch a new product.
Production implementation is the process of translating a product design (in the form of CAD files, 2D drawings, and prototypes) into a ready-for-sale product.

Underestimating the time and cost of the production implementation work is a common grave mistake. The production implementation might seem like a straightforward process, but it can take 3-4 times longer than the R&D stage. The reason for this miscalculation is what I call the “trip planning syndrome.” You cannot plan everything in advance; there are always surprises and unexpected failures. As Pareto claimed, it’s the small (and hard to predict) things that cost the most.

Here is a list of common potential issues and failures to help you prepare your production implementation work and reduce costly breakdowns.

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Design-To-Cost

Design To Cost (DTC)

Design-To-Cost (DTC) is one of the most important aspects of a product design. After all, in an average product, every dollar in cost equals five dollars in sales (see calculation). Most product designers and engineers know how to design cost-effective products in terms of engineering and production but tend to overlook the other aspects of DTC.

In this article, I list the main components of DTC and explain how to deal with them during the product design process.

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Physical vs. Virtual Products

physical vs virtual products

Physical products are an inseparable part of human history. From ancient tool makers to modern mass manufacturers, physical products were always intended to extend and improve the human body, giving us the ability to do things better, faster, stronger, easier, etc., in a way we wouldn’t be able to do otherwise.

There are only two types of tools that extend the human mind: writing and software. The invention of writing enabled, for the first time in history, humans to keep thoughts, ideas, and information external to the human brain. That was a major step in our evolution. The software took these capabilities a few steps further by enabling a much more powerful tool to store and use data and make calculations.

Physical products and software products are very different from each other. One has a body and it follows the rules of physics, while the other has no body and is based on logic. For many years, these two types of products lived in separate worlds. Today, the borders between them are fading. The Internet, the Internet Of Things (IOT), Wearable Computing, and the low cost of microprocessors allow for more and more physical products to also become software products.

In this article, I’ll describe some of these main product aspects and discuss the differences between physical products and software products.

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12 Books for Product Design Managers

Product design management books

This time, I’d like to share some of my best nonfiction reading with you. Here is a list of 12 recommended books for anyone who deals with product design management. These books are not about product design management, but about different related topics: innovation, marketing, management, design, engineering and even history and psychology. I can guarantee you that each of these books is interesting and enriching, for both professional and personal matters.

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Is it God or the Devil in the details?

perfectionism design example

Perfectionism is a controversial character trait. In the context of product design and product design management, some consider it as a must-have trait, and some see it as a burden. Some product designers try to learn how to be more of a perfectionist while others try to avoid the same. Is it God or the Devil in the details? In this article, I’ll discuss the pros & cons of perfectionism for product designers, engineers and product design managers, from professional and practical perspectives.

The only good aspect of perfectionism is that is causes a person to aim to produce the best results possible — a perfectionist will not compromise and will keep working on all details until the product is perfect. For non-perfectionists, ‘90% perfect’ might be good enough. But for a perfectionist, skipping that final 10% is not an option; they will keep working and working until 100% has been achieved. In many cases, this last 10% can make a big difference in a product’s quality. In this matter, perfectionism is a valuable trait, and it can help in achieving better products.

Unfortunately, perfectionism is much more of a burden than a skill in the product design process. Here are the three main reasons why:

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The Design-Marketing Tango

The Design-Marketing Tango

A successful product requires more than just design and engineering. A good design and smart engineering can result in a great product, but these two factors alone won’t necessarily achieve a successful one — a product that makes for good business. The bridge from a well-designed product to a successful one very much depends on Design-Marketing relationships.  The common relationship between product design and marketing is complicated. In many cases, you may find a lot of misunderstandings and unorganized multidisciplinary working procedures involved in this Design-Marketing Tango. This chaotic situation can cause great damage to any Product-Design Driven company.

This article deals with the integration of marketing knowledge and abilities in a product design process — the benefits you can gain from it, how to do it properly, and what to be aware of.

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Engineers are from Mars, Designers are from Venus

Engineers are from Mars, Designers are from Venus

Any product is the outcome of both the work of engineers and industrial designers. There aren’t many products that can be designed solely by engineers without designers, and vice versa. In a product design project, the engineers and the designers work shoulder to shoulder, and they both responsible for designing the product, but do they see the design work eye to eye?

Engineers are from Mars and designers are from Venus; they do not share the same background, and they do not speak the same language. They even think differently. They see products in very different ways and tend to misunderstand each other’s perspectives. Engineers see designers as unrealistic visionaries and designers see engineers as shortsighted technocrats. I made these two lists to help engineers and designers to close the gaps between the two disciplines and to cooperate better as a design team in a product design project.

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The Hidden Sides of Ergonomics

The Hidden Sides of Ergonomics

Ergonomics is a scientific discipline concerned with interactions among users and products or systems. This is why it’s also called Human-Engineering or Human-Factors. In a product design process, ergonomics deals with designing the most efficient and fluent solutions for user/product interactions. The term “ergonomics” is most familiar with the aspects of product/human-body fit. Manufacturers of products with significant interaction with the human body, such as shoes, working tools, and computer keyboards, understand the need and the value of ergonomics; but what about products with no product/human-body interaction? Do they have to be ergonomically designed?  The answer is – yes. Let’s see why.

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How To Write a Product-Brief

How to write a Product design prief

A product-brief is one of the most important elements in a product design project. The product-brief is a plan and a compass – it defines the product’s goals and attributes, and shows you where to go. The product-brief has a great impact on the product’s quality and character, and the project’s efficiency. The product-brief writing is perhaps the activity with the highest ROI, as it costs very little and brings great value, as well as saves a lot of time and money while preventing wrong directions and unexpected outcomes.

Here is a list of eleven guidelines and insights about how to manage your product-brief.

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Why over-engineering is a management failure and how to avoid it

Over-Engineering

Over-engineering is the silence product’s failure. It inhibits business growth for product design and manufacturing companies, especially for ones that deal with capabilities and performance oriented products. Unlike under-engineering, over-engineering is not easily recognized; this is why it can exist for long time. Over-engineering is not an engineering failure but a management one. Therefore management actions should be taken to deal with it.

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BOM Management vs. BOM Listing

Parts & BOM

A BOM (Bill Of Materials) is the “recipe” of a product. BOM data is at the hub of any product design and manufacturing business – R&D, manufacturing, logistics, procurement, inventory, pricing, and sales are all dependent on BOM data. Products cannot be produced without a BOM, and BOM mistakes are costly. Yet, in many R&D projects, BOM management is overlooked, and the BOM is treated as a list instead of as a management tool. There are three main reasons for this oversight: 1. BOM management is tedious work that no one wants to deal with. 2. There are no powerful and friendly BOM management tools. 3. The value of BOM management (as opposed to BOM listing) can be vague.

What is the difference between listing and managing the BOM data?

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10 Product Design common mistakes

10 common product design mistakes

The new-product development process is complex and multi-dimensional. It requires considerable professional expertise and the ability to make decisions in uncertain situations. Though trial and error is an integral part of the process, it is both possible and advisable to avoid common mistakes that might cause significant loss of time and money. The following is a list of 10 common mistakes and misconceptions often made during the product development and design process. The first step to avoiding them is being aware of them.

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Product Matrix – product range optimization method

Product matrix - segmentation table

Product Matrix is a simple method for optimizing the product range of a company and defining the products’ main features – a method that can both save a lot of money and increase sales. In this article, I’ll describe what a Product Matrix is and how to use this method.

The problem

What products should we develop next? This is one of the major questions that PDD companies keep struggling with. Should we make a rich featured product or a light version? Should it be an expensive or cheap one? New product or new series? These are all crucial questions that bother any PDD company, and they are questions with enormous impact on the entire business.

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