The merchandises around you in your home and interact with is the outcome of a sophisticated and complicated product development process. It is always intriguing to think about how ordinary subjects in life are being produced, like the keyboard I am using to type those words, the mirror I used this morning to put cream on, or the book light for reading in bed. Glocusent, as an expert for book light, is often asked the question about the development process for our light. This article will throwback and unveil the development journey of one of our best-selling products – neck reading light, and you will find it rarely resembles a straight line.
Product Development Strategy, or New Product Development (NPD), means the whole process of developing a product from the stage of ideation to production. Successful product development is creative and strategic, and different companies may have different processes. However, one thing in common for a successful product development is a clear organisation to put all resources together effectively and strategically. Without a well-planned product development process, it will be hard to mesh creativity and strategy effectively. You can also refer to Wikipedia to know more about the definition of the product development process: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_product_development
Although it may differ by industry and company, Glocusent effectively breaks down the whole product development process into six essential stages: Product Demand Confirmation, Product ID Design & Validation, Product Structure Design & Validation, Product Molding & Adjustment, Pilot Production, and then Mass Production. Different companies may have different names for each stage, but the whole process should be similar. Therefore we can consider this process applied in our company as a general process for all industries.
Next, we will walk you through each stage with detailed illustrations in this article.
Stage 1. Product Demand Confirmation
Before we validate and confirm product demand, we need to ask ourselves the following questions and find the answers: What kind of product do we need? Who will need this product? Who are they? Why will they be willing to pay for our product? What are their exact demands and requests about this product? If the current products in the market can satisfy their needs? What will the prices that the potential customers are willing to pay? Should the design be more modern or more classic? What are the requirements for the materials of the product? and more…
As the person in charge of the product, the product manager needs to spend plenty of time seeking the answers to the above questions and finding the most suitable solution to address the market demands. The techniques that product managers always use are Industry Research; Competitive Products Analysis, especially the analysis of competitive products’ aha moments and disadvantage features; Unbiased Customer Survey; and User Persona & Profile. An example of a research and demand sheet is shown as below:
Combining all the answers, the product manager will create a clear & detailed list of explicit requirements of a product. Take Glocusent Neck Reading Light as an example, our product manager was very specific that we need to use ABS plastic (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) and silicone; the width between two arms needs to be slightly wider than the average size of a caucasian's neck; it must be rechargeable with USB-C cable; there must be three color temperatures adjustable, multiple brightness levels; and it has to last for at least 8 hours working time with one full charge.
Stage 2. Product ID Design & Validation
After we determine all product demands, we will go into the next stage: ID Design, or Industrial Design. Industrial Design usually refers to the professional practice of conceptualizing and designing a product or, simply saying, it is integrating product demands and ideas and transferring them into an applicable appearance of the item. Although it is an exterior design process, it can involve inputs from diverse domains. For example, the neck reading light ID design involves social science studies to understand the major user group’s social behaviors, ergonomics to improve the comforts of the device, optics to ensure the perfect beam angle, and materials to reduce the weight of the device and also ensure its wear-resisting & endurability.
An industrial designer’s purpose and responsibility are to emphasize the appearance and how the value & experience the product provides to end-users. They need to make sure the product’s appearance is attractive and competitive, such as an elegant appearance, exquisite details, and quality textures. Besides that, the industrial designer needs to consider the following vital points at the same time:
1. Follow the leads by the product manager
First, the industrial designer should follow the product manager’s lead in the style and ensure the product appearance is compatible with its function demands. If the product manager specifically indicates the reading light is modern, then it cannot be in cute, classic, or military style.
2. Consider assembling process
Secondly, the industrial designer needs to consider leaving extra space for all small assembling parts and accessories. For instance, most glocusent book lights are rechargeable, and therefore the industrial designer needs to make sure there is a space for a rechargeable battery and where to put the rechargeable mouth, he also needs to make sure the rechargeable battery can be fixed in one spot, instead of dangling around when you move the item.
3. Consistency of CMF is the key
What is CMF? and why do we say CMF is the key? CMF is an abbreviation of Color, Material, and Finish in a product development process. Those three factors will influence a product’s looks, feels, and functional and perceived value by consumers and users. It directly impacts whether a product looks and feels durable or fragile, cheap or luxurious. On top of that, different combinations of materials can be decisive for optimizing the product’s function. Glocusent clip on light for headboard is a relatively bigger reading lamp, one of the key competitive advantages of the bed lamp is the gooseneck that can be positioned at a specific angle without bouncing back. This function is thanks to the marriage of metal and silicone; otherwise, it can easily bounce back to the original position like other products.
4. Right shape, right space
Last but not least, to ensure a better user experience, the industrial manager needs to arrange the buttons and handles in the most comfortable spot with the most comfortable shape and size. If the button is too small, the user may find it hard to press; it may cause unintended activation if it is too big.
When the ID designer finishes the design for its exterior, there will be a prototype sample created by 3D Printers with no functions. The purpose of a prototype sample is to show the product development team and verify if the appearance aligns with the target audiences’ sense of style and if the function implementation is reasonable. If the team believes there is a better solution, or if the structural designer says it is not attainable with the product function demands, the ID designer will have to go through the whole process all over again until everyone in the team is satisfied.
Stage 3. Mechanical Design & Verification
The third step is the process of mechanical design and verification. The process involves defining product components & assortments, product structuring to ensure components can be stabilized in the fixed spot, and creating a master structure to summarize the relationships of the parts, assemblies, and subassemblies. The mechanical engineer will combine their engineering skill sets and knowledge of design with specific reference to the ID design result to create functional and marketable products. The sole intention of this role is to implement the functions of the products in the ID design.
Based on the initial product demands proposal, one product has different requirements and limitations. Those requirements and constraints may be conflicted. For example, the product may need to maintain high performance with low cost and have a compact structure to reduce the product size but leave enough spaces to avoid interferences between internal components. The mechanic engineer will have to address those conflicts based on the priorities of the demands & conditions and find an optimal solution to satisfy the demands with the premise of the limitations. The mechanical engineer will have to frequently communicate with the product manager and ID designer to decide on an unequivocal order of importance and priority. Decisions to remove certain features may be made from those communications to balance those conflicts well. For example, I decided to give up the thin base of the mini clip on book light so that we could place a larger volume battery.
With the structural design provided by the mechanic engineer, there will be a full-functioning prototype coming out in this stage. Unlike the prototype sample from the ID design process, the full-functioning prototype will have complete functions and features. This means the very first product has been born. However, this prototype is a ‘handmade’ item and cannot go for mass production.
Stage 4. Product Molding & Modification
We get the ‘handmade’ product in stage 3, and now we are facing the following common issues of handmade items: long production cycle, high labor cost, and inconsistent product quality. Therefore, stage 4 is to convert handwork to machine-work by product molding & modification.
Molding or casting is a manufacturing process to produce large quantities of the same parts. The mechanic engineer will provide 2D or 3D documents in STP file format to a molding manufacturer and will communicate with the molding manufacturer if the design is practical to create molds. A DFM (Design for Manufacturing) report will be used to evaluate and determine if the design needs to be changed or improved. The molding manufacturer will divide the whole product into parts to produce different molds. The machines involved in this process include CNC Machine, Electrical Discharge Machine, and Grinder Machine; with the advanced technology, some molds can be made with 3D machines more efficiently and effectively with a higher precision level.
There will be once or twice modifications after the mold has been initially completed because there might be a little flaw of cracking on the surface of the final item or a big gap between two adhesion parts. To make a better product, the modification process to improve the mold is a must in the product development process.
Molding is a complex and sophisticated process. If you are interested in knowing more about the molding process, we also elaborate on everything in detail for creating a mold from scratch.
Stage 5. Pilot Line Production
We are finally able to have the production line ready with the finished molding parts. Molding factory will produce parts of the products, but not all; for other small assortments such as batteries and chips will have to be purchased separately from different suppliers. We need to get all materials and parts ready for the initial assembly line, we call it the pilot line.
There are always risks associated with new product launches before mass production. Suppose Prototypes are to confirm the details and functions of the product to manufacture. In that case, the pilot line is to define and examine the manufacturing process and test the new product's market acceptance. We will use a pilot run to determine the SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) to improve production efficiency for the mass production stage.
Every procedure will have excruciating but necessary details to elaborate on the requirements, the tools that need to be used, and its application technique. Taking Glocusent Neck Light as an example, the whole product assembly line consists of 40 SOP processes. The first process is to assemble two parts of neck arms by glue, and the second procedure is to assemble the silicone part into the arm.
The followings are examples captured from the actual SOP of the neck reading light:
Stage 6. Mass Production
The products from the pilot line production will be given to the team members and friends to use in exchange for feedback, or it will be distributed to fans and supporters of the Glocusent brand to experience and try out. The product manager will conduct a survey type research and collect opinions from the testers to improve the product further before mass production. It is possible that the mold may need to be modified again, or the assembly line SOP may need to be adjusted to update the user manual or accessories.
After all adjustments have been made, and before the mass production, a very small quantity of product will be officially distributed in the market to end customers. We will collect the customers’ review feedback and observe the daily sales trend in the first three months to determine if the product has certain market prospects.
If we receive feedback about serious issues of the products, we will have to fix the issue and ensure it will not happen again before the mass production; if the issue cannot be fixed or is unavoidable, we may announce an end of the project. It may sound cruel and ruthless because the team has invested an enormous amount of time, effort, and money, it seems all goes to waste. It can be true from one perspective; however, at Glocusent, we think each purchase of a Glocusent product by our customers is based on the trust of our brand and our reputation - expert in booklight. We mustn't disappoint our customers.
After all is said and done above, we are in the final mass production stage. The final products may go to wholesale orders from our B2B partners, or go to B2C platforms, like Amazon or Walmart, directly distribute to end consumers. Apart from the predetermined SOP of the product line, the major difference between the pilot line and the mass production is the extra enhanced and improved Quality Controls added to the procedures. For example, we even have quality control for our Neck Book Light accessories - the USB-C cable. We use the wire swing testing machine to blend and swing the cord at least 2000 times to ensure its durability, or we will weigh every single completed product with a package on the scale that readability is 0.01g; this is to avoid any missing cables or user manuals.
This article briefly introduced 6 stages of the product development process in plain English. We will continually bring you other topics about molding, assembling, product testing, and quality control in more detail. Please stay tuned, and follow us on Instagram, Facebook, or chat with us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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