Product Design and Prototyping in a Small Business Environment
Once the decision has been made to design a product, the first step is to gather the company's creative minds together. The initial product concept must be fleshed out as much as possible. Any physical design limitations should be discussed, along with possible enhancements. Potential upgrades or accessory additions to the product which may be developed later should also be discussed.
The more clearly the product is understood, the easier it will be for technicians to get to work. CAD drawings and files must be created, and components must be sourced and sampled. For each part of the first prototypes to be made accurately, the correct information must be provided to the maker. Incorrectly made components of a prototype will cause costly delays.
When the first prototypes are completed, the testing process can begin. Care must be taken to ensure that all data is recorded accurately. Testing will show where and how the product must be altered to pass certification. Several generations of prototypes may be necessary. Original concepts are sometimes abandoned as the product evolves. Consultations with marketing, sales staff, and consumers are important during this period to keep the design relevant to the market's needs. There is no point in developing a product that passes testing, but no one wants. It is also important to remember that development and production costs, including materials, labor, and advertising must be considered when deciding on pricing.
While testing and development are taking place, documentation must also be created. Technical writers must consult with the design team to ensure the information in manuals and other documentation is correct. Any product manuals and labeling must be submitted along with the product for certification. Advertising and presentation media, such as video or online marketing content, printed brochures, and packaging must also be developed.
Once the product is finalized and certified, production can begin. The rollout must be ready, and in a competitive marketplace, the sooner the better. It is important to remember that when working in product design and development, there is no substitute for creativity and energy, especially in a small business environment, where every person on the team is a vital member.