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.

The production implementation stage will take longer than you plan. Much longer. Mistakes, negotiations, decision making, certifications, foreign holidays, vacations, misunderstanding, and more are all time consuming elements with very little ability to be planned out.

The same goes for the cost—prepare to pay more than planned for both the product and the process. Very few R&D and production implementation projects meet their budget plan.

Production Means
Unlike prototypes and even small batch production, mass production requires production means: molds, tools, machines, assembly lines, and others. These are all (one-off) products. They have to be developed and produced, and, as products, they have failures and issues.

Things that seemed perfect as a CAD design, and things that even worked well as prototypes, might limp as a real product. The real product is different from a prototype. It is produced in a different production process with different materials and components. Expect performance and quality issues with the product’s sensitive features.

For some products, the assembly cost is crucial. Product designers and engineers tend to disregard it. There’s a big difference between “can be assembled” and “can be efficiently assembled in high volume.” Instruct the R&D team to consider the assembly efficiency and write it in the product brief.

Tight tolerances cost money and time, but tolerances that are too wide cost much more. Pay extra attention to your design (drawings) tolerances. Narrow or expand it depending on the case and make sure your manufacturers understand the importance of your tolerances and that they are followed.

Depending on the production process and the material, every part has a production distortion potential. Expecting these distortions can save you a huge amount of time and money.

Color-Material-Finishing (CMF) has a great impact on the product’s quality, yet it’s one of most sensitive aspects to control. Minor changes can make a big difference (for better or worse), and it is difficult to test it with models. Know what you are aiming for and how to achieve it.

A product is measured with all senses. Don’t forget the sound, smell, touch, and taste aspects of your product. You don’t want any weird noises or smelly surprises.

I have seen too many products that launched beyond schedule due to a single part being out of stock. You cannot ship your product with a missing screw, label, or user-manual, so make sure you have all materials, parts, and components in your warehouse.

Same goes for regulations—you will not be able to sell before having all the formal permissions in place. It takes time to get these, so make sure to take care of it in advance.

Products are normally designed, produced, and assembled in different locations. The logistics aspects of the production implementation are crucial. Make sure you have full control over the logistics and operations.

Sometimes a silly email or phone misunderstanding can result in a container full of defect products. Misunderstanding mistakes tends to happen when the communication is across languages and cultures, or done recklessly. Every decision and instruction should be done according to procedures, with all the needed information attached.

Data Management
Product data management is at the center of production implementation work. A wrong data will lead to a wrong product. A successful product data management process requires a working methodology and management tools.

In my next article, I’ll share a working methodology and some tips about product data management as part of the product design and production implementation processes, including how to properly handle it without using expensive monolithic software.
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