You had an idea for a product. Concept sketches were drawn, market research validated the need for your product, you identified potential customers, and prototypes were created. However, the design process is still far from over. As feedback is gathered and technical issues are resolved, changes will be made to the design. Decisions regarding materials, manufacturing processes, and cost considerations must be carefully evaluated. Transitioning from a working prototype to a market-ready product involves rigorous testing, compliance with regulatory standards, and scaling up production capabilities. Many important decisions must be made to get a product from prototype to production.

Prototype design process

Design Refinement and Prototype Testing

Prototypes are a critical part of the product design process. These early versions of your product allow you to test and evaluate its feasibility, functionality, and user experience. As such, your product’s design should evolve during the prototyping process.

Product designs should be refined according to feedback from various testing groups, including internal teams and potential users. This feedback highlights practical issues, usability concerns, and possible improvements that may not have been apparent during the initial design phase. Through rigorous testing, you can identify weaknesses in a design, such as structural flaws, ergonomic issues, or user interface problems, and address them promptly.

Designs should be changed not only to fix these issues but also to enhance overall functionality and performance. If a prototype reveals that a component is prone to wear and tear, materials or manufacturing processes can be adjusted to increase durability.

Design for Manufacturing

Design for Manufacturing (DFM) is vital when developing any mass-produced product. The most important factor in DFM is creating simplified, optimized designs. A complex product design may use many different components that have to be individually sourced. Standardizing product hardware reduces inventory needs and lowers manufacturing costs. Simple designs also foster easier product assembly. Streamlining assembly processes lowers assembly times and reduces the possibility of errors and defects by eliminating as many complex steps as possible.

With DFM, it is important to maintain the level of functionality settled on in design refinement. Products developed with DFM in mind should be of the same or higher quality than more complex designs. Materials should be cost effective, but still suitable for the product. Consider the environment the product will be in. For instance, when developing a medical device, choose a biocompatible material that can withstand repeated interactions with cleaning agents.

At this stage, you should also consider whether the product will be manufactured domestically or internationally. International manufacturing has lower costs but may take longer, while domestic manufacturing has higher production costs but is easier to travel to and has higher quality control. You also want to use a manufacturing compatible with scalable manufacturing, which accommodates increased demand for a product while retaining quality and cost of production.

Additionally, a bill of materials (BOM) must be created. A BOM lists the raw materials, components, quantities, and instructions to assemble a product correctly. As product specifications change, it is vital to keep the BOM updated.

Successful Product Design

Engineers are vital to successful product design. They develop designs, create prototypes, and refine designs throughout the development process. They use their technical expertise to ensure that products are functional, reliable, and manufacturable. Engineers create specifications to show all the requirements and details of the product. Specifications include a detailed product design and its functions, features, and performance.

Engineers also conduct rigorous testing and analysis to ensure prototypes meet all specifications and performance standards. However, successful products are not just developed by engineers, but by cross-functional teams that integrate various skills.

Cross-Functional Teams

In addition to engineers, teams should have finance expertise. Their insights help make informed decisions about material choices, production methods, and market pricing strategies. Effective financial management ensures the design and manufacturing process stays within budget and delivers a profitable product. Marketing is also essential. It brings awareness of your product to your target audience and collects feedback. A good financial and marketing team is vital for long-term success.

Final Design and Pre-Production Testing

Once the final design is chosen, the last step before manufacturing the product is to complete pre-production testing. Before ordering a large production run, a small number of units can be built and tested to ensure everything is functioning properly, including the manufacturing process. If an error is detected, it can be remedied before many defective units are manufactured. Once everything functions as it should, certifications and regulatory hurdles must commence.

Regulatory Requirements

Not only does the end product have to meet regulatory requirements before going to market, but the actual manufacturing facility where its produced must also meet requirements. For products sold on the global market, approval by multiple regulatory agencies is required, such as the FDA in the United States, which approves medical devices, and the CE marking in the European Economic Area. The ISO certifies quality management systems. While not a requirement, ISO certification is often expected and is something to look for in a design and manufacturing partner.

Once your product has passed all certifications and regulatory requirements, a full production run can begin. Depending on the complexity of your design and the location where it’s being manufactured, this can take anywhere from one to several months.

Product Launch and Post-Launch Evaluation

Now that your product is in production, it is ready for market. Your sales and marketing teams must promote it and collect feedback.

The Importance of Marketing

If no one knows your product exists, does it really exist? A strong marketing and sales strategy is needed for potential customers to know about your product. The plan should be based on market research that was started before prototypes were created. The plan determines how the product should be priced and the best way to advertise the product to your target audience. This involves choosing the right mix of advertising mediums, whether it be digital marketing, social media campaigns, traditional media, or direct sales efforts. Customer demographics and purchasing information can inform which medium is the most effective way to reach customers for a particular product.

It is important to collect feedback on your product after it has launched. Feedback lets you know how your product is performing in the real world. This feedback can highlight strengths to be emphasized in future marketing efforts and reveal areas for improvement that can be addressed in subsequent product iterations. Engaging with customers also builds a loyal customer base by showing that their opinions are valued.

Continuous market monitoring should also inform us of changes to the product. Staying updated with market trends, customer preferences, and competitor activities ensures your product remains relevant and competitive. Innovations can be driven by observing the latest advancements in the industry and adapting them to enhance your product. A well-crafted marketing and sales plan is essential for a product’s successful launch and prosperity.

Bringing Your Product to Market

If all these steps seem rather overwhelming, you’re not alone. Working with an experienced product development partner can be the key to developing a successful product. A partner with manufacturing systems in place and knowledge of regulatory agencies can make a long process quicker and easier.

Pivot International has over 50 years of experience designing, developing, and manufacturing products for a variety of industries. We’ve helped several clients throughout the product development process and offer a multi-disciplined global design team. We have over 300,000 square feet of manufacturing space throughout North America, Europe, and Asia. Contact our team to learn more about how we can help you develop your product.