What’s the most common complaint managers of small businesses have about product development projects: it always costs too much and takes too long.
Albert Einstein once said: “we cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used to create them”. If you want to reduce product development time and money, then you are almost certainly going to have to do something different than you did last time.
Most products are really “many designs”, a power supply design, a uC design, a firmware design, etc. It is almost certain that someone has already designed all of the “designs” you need for your product. It may seem difficult to “acquire” these designs, but I can tell you we start most of our project 50%+ done because we are able to find reference designs to use in the new product. Some we get from previous projects we have done, some we get from companies that make similar, but non-competitive products, some we get from vendors. If you’re not including reference designs into your design, you’re leaving money on the table.
Do not forget about fixed cost:
One cost item that is often never included in any analysis of product development expense is the fixed cost overhead. If you hire a person and cannot keep that person busy 100% of the time, your costs are going to be higher than you think. It also costs money to hire and fire employees. Taxes, office space, computer, HR, secretarial, etc. – all add to fixed cost overhead. Keep fixed costs low by analyzing what should be outsourced and what should remain in the house.
Product Development is a series of decisions – thousands of them. Some of these decisions are inevitably going to be wrong. Following a process not only helps you make better decisions but also helps to find mistakes earlier. Finding a problem early helps to prevent doing the same work twice.
Most of the cost associated with developing products is people cost. The more efficiently these people work, the less number of man hours needed, and the lower the cost. Here are some tips for improving productivity:
Use experts instead of Jack of All Trades.
Use the right tool for the job – CAD, Test Equipment, Software, etc. Good Leadership/coaching can have a big impact on productivity. Make sure you understand how to communicate with technical people.
Innovation can reduce product development cost by finding unique ways to solve problems with less time and money. Here are some tips for improving innovation:
Large diverse teams are more innovative than smaller, less diversified teams. Leadership: proper facilitation can greatly increase innovation. Make sure the culture is tolerant of the risk-taking urge of the organization of the “not invented here” syndrome. Allow time for innovation to occur by following a process with gating points.