Contemporary best practices for NPD (new product development) include iterative prototyping, and no complex product makes it to market without multiple rounds of this activity. But many companies lack a conceptual framework for understanding the wider implications of the prototyping process. For this reason, they often unwittingly leave value on the table while accruing unnecessary and excessive prototyping costs.
At Pivot, we are US-based global leaders in one-source, end-to-end product development and supply chain solutions. For over fifty years, we have helped companies worldwide deliver profitable, internationally award-winning products that have positioned them for market leadership. With DFM expertise that spans fourteen industries and 320,000 square feet of scalable manufacturing capability across three continents (including domestic options), we provide a smooth, seamless, highly cost-effective prototyping process that takes your product from proof of concept to successful launch.
To keep costs down and capture maximum value from the prototyping process, it’s not enough to understand the various types of builds. Instead, companies must learn to identify and avoid the hazards that contribute to excessive investment and understand the critical role prototyping plays with various stakeholders in the broader product ecosystem.
Why Prototyping Costs Can Quickly Become Excessive
When prototyping costs begin to mount, it’s typically for three reasons:
1. Prototype designs fail to include manufacturing considerations.
2. Physical prototypes are created prematurely or disconnected from real-world contexts.
3. Prototypes are created with unnecessarily costly materials.
The solution to the first hazard is DFM (Design For Manufacture). As its name suggests, DFM exists to ensure that designs are optimized for scalable manufacture. This approach fuels superior product design and also prevents sunk costs. How? By ensuring that pre-production prototypes are undertaken with supply chain variables and manufacturing materials and methods in mind. This protects companies from costly back-to-the-drawing board scenarios that can too easily occur when builds are not created with the end in mind.
The solution to the second hazard lies in relying on AR and VR applications that reduce the number of physical builds needed to successfully reach a production prototype. Because AR and VR applications render designs at scale, in-depth testing can be conducted that reveals how the product will behave in the context of actual use — all without the level of investment required for physical builds.
The solution to the third hazard is 3D printing. In contrast to other materials, this fabrication technology is a much faster, significantly more cost-effective approach to prototyping. Between Pivot’s top DFM talent, advanced AR/VR applications, and 3D printing capability that can cycle through a dozen builds in record time, companies can feel assured of avoiding costly hazards.
Prototyping’s Role in the Broader Product Ecosystem
Iterative prototyping first appeared on the scene as a way to better understand and predict customers’ reactions to a new product. But prototypes play a much more extensive role in the broader ecosystem with stakeholders that include end users, investors, and decision-makers.
Product developers would often begin by studying end users and gathering quantitative and statistical data, building a use case, creating the physical product, and launching what they hoped would be a successful product — in that order.
Unfortunately, this was a recipe for failing to get the most out of the process, and it’s a recipe that too many companies are still following. No matter how solid a company’s up-front understanding of its intended customer may be, it’s rarely deep or ethnographic enough to predict how they’ll respond to the product. This is why it’s essential to engage end users throughout the prototyping process.
Prototyping isn’t just about bringing a product closer and closer to perfection for the end user. It’s also a key funding strategy for companies looking for capital investment. Any new product — especially a potentially disruptive one — always involves risk to those who place their bets on it. Well-designed prototypes can go a long way in reducing anxieties about ROI, especially when the intended innovation is complex or intangible.
Complex B2B products are almost always purchased by teams rather than single buyers. Buyer teams often approach a purchase by identifying a pain point, seeking a solution, and making a case for their preferred solution. Key decision-makers often counter with varying objections to proposed solutions, citing multiple reasons for potentially rejecting the product in question. (Particularly if adoption poses the threat of change to organizational structures or business processes.)
The takeaway is that prototyping can play a significant role with buyers, providing iterative opportunities for pinpointing problem definitions, exposing design deficiencies, envisioning further possibilities, analyzing options, and testing an evolving product. Using this approach, the actual purchase may be little more than a formality since enthusiasm for the product has been built over time.
Looking for a Premier Product Development Partner?
Pivot delivers an integrative, expedited, cost-effective prototyping process to take your product from conception to launch. If you’d like to learn more about our collaborative approach to doing business and how we’ll help you transform your product vision into a successful market reality, contact us today.