When an OEM requests new product features after agreement on the detailed requirements has been reached, the development team must perform a balancing act. It needs to weigh the benefits of the new feature against the potential impact on cost, timing, testing, production, and profitability. You want a development partner who is brave enough to communicate the realities of these changes to you.
When the development team works with the OEM to establish definite, detailed product requirements and specifications at the outset, it removes the guesswork -- and therefore risks -- associated with change requests.
In electronic engineering and manufacturing, technology is not one-size-fits-all. A given technology or component can work well for one product and fail miserably elsewhere. The result depends on a number of factors, including environments, tolerances, and functional requirements.
Product requirements often call out specific services instead of features. If, for example, you specify WiFi instead of wireless connectivity as a feature, your development partner should make sure that is what you really want. To do that, the development team must ask the right questions. What do you need to transmit? Is it just a few characters of text? Will the product be used in an environment where WiFi is the most reliably available form of connectivity? How will it affect the energy requirements? Often, applying the right technology begins with questions about what drives the real product requirements.
Process is the keystone of smooth product development. Good process creates opportunities for innovation, cost/benefit analysis, and product lifecycle planning. Process that focuses on measured results keeps stakeholders aligned to common goals.
No project is without its speed bumps, but process can minimize their impact or help avoid them altogether. Good process provides clear detail on every element of development. From product specification and engineering, to validation, functional test, and manufacturing, sound process will mitigate inherent product development risks. Be sure your product development partner uses a documented and repeatable development process, and has a track record for delivering end products that meet the needs of their customers.
Product development outsourcing doesnít have to be nerve wracking. It can do just what itís supposed to -- deliver the right product that meets requirements, contain costs, and keep in-house resources focused on core competencies. To make sound outsourcing decisions, identify the functions and features, all of the must-haves, your new product requires. Then find a product development partner able to marshal the right technologies for each stage of development and use a proven process to ensure timely, cost-effective delivery.
Brian Terhune is the operations director at Stilwell Baker. Throughout his career, he has led multi-disciplined engineering teams in commercial/military aerospace, and software development sectors. Brian has a BS in mechanical engineering from the University of South Florida.