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The ABCs of NPI: Basic Knowledge for Advanced Concepts

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New product introduction (NPI) is full of testing, quality checks, re-testing, verification and validation, prototyping, design for manufacturability (DFM) analysis, supplier and manufacturer selection, and more. But there are a few basic nuggets of knowledge that every designer, engineer, and product manager needs to know. We sat down with Simplexity Product Development, a trusted product development firm, for their take on what you need to know about getting your products off to a great start. 

Not sure where to take your product from that sketch on a napkin to finished product? You’re not alone; while many companies have ambitious ideas for product development, few have the planning capacity, front-end knowledge, and basic understanding of the entire process.

Visualization is important, but so is practical application of feasible, fact-based new product introduction (NPI).

If your company needs a little help getting off the ground with new product introduction, it helps to know about planning, production, and prototype techniques, and manufacturing options – and potential pitfalls along the way.

Sure, NPI requires cutting-edge, advanced thinking in order to eventually succeed. But there are a few specific areas of focus that can take your NPI process to the next level. 

New Product Introduction Insight

It’s important to keep the main goal of NPI in mind: to support key stakeholders in transferring a product from prototype phases into successful production. 

What goes into NPI?

  • Manage product cost
  • Evaluate design for manufacturability (DFM)
  • Oversee supply chain management and cost of goods sold (COGS)
  • Reduce time to market
  • Select and onboard contract manufacturers and suppliers
  • Develop and integrate process development
  • Develop custom process equipment and production line test tools
  • Manage design release schedule
  • Manage product quality
  • Identify critical-to-function performance parameters for a product
  • Develop evaluation tools for testing and monitoring performance parameters
  • Qualify and approve material substitutions and localization

Here are a few things your company should be aware of before developing a new product:

  • Align your product development plan with the basic NPI process. In a nutshell, a new product is developed through brainstorming, defining requirements and design, prototyping, iteration, testing, and setting up production processes. This process involves managing product quality and cost, evaluating the product’s design for manufacturability (DFM), and comprehensive oversight of supply chain management, procurement, and cost of goods sold (COGS).
  • Understand your eventual marketplace. Where is your product right now? Still in the prototype phase? If so, your eventual market and commercialization effort could change drastically along the way. As you approach final testing and production, ensure your next-step marketing efforts capitalize on your product’s benefits and features. If you can reduce the time to market to benefit your product launch, explore all avenues to speed up production without sacrificing quality. Sound, proven manufacturing engineering techniques will go a long way toward bridging the gap between product design and practical market deployment.
  • Never skip a design review – and always include the NPI team. You should have design reviews on a regular basis, as initial input is invaluable for eventual success. Ensure at least one NPI team representative is available for each design review meeting, as their collaboration is critical for a successful product launch. If five of your engineers are in lockstep with product design, it always helps to have a sixth outside perspective to evaluate and offer tips for improvements.

    Design reviews are a necessity in any healthy new product development process. Everyone hates needless meetings, but design reviews are the one set of indispensable meetings that make the NPI process run much more smoothly. Use the design reviews to everyone’s advantage; don’t be afraid to dig into the details about things like approved material substitutions, localization challenges, and anything else related to functional, practical, reliable design.
  • Collaborate with contractors, suppliers, and other key NPI contributors. To keep your NPI initiatives moving along smoothly, it helps to have your key contractors and suppliers onboarded and ready to go. Early in the NPI process, take the extra time to evaluate which suppliers align with the product’s manufacturing and distribution plans. Product volume, local market factors, and specialized manufacturing expertise are just a few considerations to focus on. If you don’t settle on suppliers and manufacturers early enough and align their capabilities with your product, initial and early stage design tweaks could compromise your schedule.
  • Optimize internal and contractor evaluation tools for monitoring performance parameters. Product testing varies from project to project. Custom evaluation tools help you identify latent performance deficiencies, eliminate errors, and improve overall quality by having a repeatable way of measuring the parameters that are critical to the product’s performance. To that end, invest wisely in custom process equipment and production line test tools. Additionally, you should leverage any tools and performance monitoring procedures your contractors utilize for optimal quality.

Bottom line: With the right product development firm behind you, the journey from concept to finished product is much easier than you think.

About the Author

Simplexity Product Development was founded in 2005 and, with four West Coast offices, specializes in the design of hardware such as wearables, medical devices, connected consumer products, and diagnostic instruments. With engineering and design services across the entire product development continuum, Simplexity’s core concept is to simplify the complex. A collaborative approach, comprehensive product design capability and innovative thinking is reflected in the company’s portfolio. To learn more about Simplexity, contact their product development team today. 

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