Outsourced Product Engineering
Q: Is an outside design firm more expensive than doing it in-house.
A: Depends, if you have employees collecting paychecks and not engaging in productive work, then the answer is yes. No outside firm can compete with free. If your organization sees their time as free, then an external firm will always appear more costly. However, if everyone in the house is productively working, hiring an outside firm can be a very inexpensive option when compared to inside cost. First, we have 100s of reference designs that can allow us to start half done (click here to learn more about our reference designs). Second, you only pay for the hours used. You are under no obligation to pay more than you need. Your “fixed” costs go down. Second, unless you are a huge company with hundreds of engineers, it is likely that Finish Line will complete the job in fewer hours than an in-house person. This is because we use engineers that focus on a single area of expertise. Many times, these experts can save months of development because they already know the solution; whereas an in-house person might have to start learning from scratch. One last thing to keep in mind, it is not just how much it costs, it is also about how much it is worth when you are done. Having at least some of the work done by a team based engineering group like Finish Line, with years of experience in many different diverse industries, makes it more likely that the product that is being designed will be more competitive in the market. It “increased the idea pool” as we like to say.
Q: Don’t I risk losing my confidential information when I use an outside product development company like Finish line?
A: Actually, just the opposite is true. If you are worried about losing your trade secrets to your competition, then using an outside product development company is safer than building a sizeable in-house group. Employees are accessible for your competition to find and lure away. Likewise, employees who are disgruntled, are first going to look for a job at your competitor. Product Development companies work behind the scene, and it is much harder for a competitor to know actually who has what information. The people who work in a Product Development company are no more likely to seek employment at your competitor than any other company. Of course, Finish Line always signs a confidentiality agreement (click here to receive our NDA) before starting any job, and we go the further step of agreeing not to do any work for a direct competitor.
Q: What happens after the project is over, who will support it when the consultant leaves?
A: This is a legitimate concern for temporary workers or consultants. Often, temp agencies and consultant, are really unemployed (or underemployed) workers hoping to pay the rent until they get a “real” job. However, a Product Development Company like Finish Line is much different. Our employees are full-time employees who choose to work in this environment. They are here for the long term. Second, Finish Line operates under a rigorous document control system. We still have all the drawings, notes, spare parts and CAD files from the very first job we ever worked on. In fact, in many cases, we keep customers’ documentation under our drawing control permanently. Unlike consultants and temporary workers, we are here for the long term helping you long after the project is over. To learn more about how FinishLine provides engineering product support for its customers, click here.
Q: How long will it take to get a Product Development Company up to speed?
A: It depends. First, using a Product Development Company like Finish Line should not be a decision of last resort or last minute; it should be part of an overall strategy (see “When and what should I outsource to a Product Development Company“). Although we often meet some of our best customers after they have tried everything else, this is not an ideal way to start a relationship. Our employees are regarded as employees of our clients, so in the “normal” case, they come up to speed at the same pace as everyone on the team, because they are part of the team from day one. However, often we are called in to “save” a project, and in these cases, there is going to be some “get up to speed” time. Because we use subject matter experts to do work – including experts in determining the best technology for the requirement – we are often already up to speed. One word of advising on this point – using a product development process and good documentation procedures will go a long way to ensuring there is minimal “tribal knowledge.” If you would like to understand more about Finish Line’s product development process and documentation procedure, click here.
Q: When and what should I outsource to a Product Development Company like Finish Line.
A: The answer depends on you. A large organization is very different than small companies when it comes to product development. They typically have the leverage (high unit volume) that allows them to afford inefficient, but very responsive, internal departments. Small companies/startups, which Finish Line focuses on exclusively, should take a very different approach:
The first question to answer is what is core to your business; that is, what is the one thing your company can do better than anyone else in the world? For example, Finish Line is the world’s best product development company for small companies/startups. We focus on this single mission and try to outsource everything else. This allows us access to intellectual capital (smart people) that we could never obtain otherwise while staying focused on getting the best people, processes, and procedure in place for our core mission.
Beyond this general principle, the exact mix and structure of your product development team are going to depend on many factors unique to your organization. Click here if you would like some help on this subject.
Q: What is the difference between a Product Development Company and a Consultant?
A: A lot. First, you should always understand whom you are working with. The word “consultant” and “Product Development Company” are many times used synonymously- they are not the same thing. A Product Development Company has a team of people working together under a standard set of management and management procedures. A consult typically works from his/her house and has no system or structured way of getting work done. A consultant is excellent when you have a very detailed, specific problem to solve within a single technology area. Consultants are there for precisely this reason. However, if many different disciplines are involved, that all need coordination and communication, or if it is not clear what technology or area of expertise is the issue, a consultant will be counterproductive. For example, if you hire a consultant who is an expert in C++, make sure that C++ is what is needed. He/she is not likely to come in a say, this problem can be solved with VB with much less time and effort, or assembly, or even hardware. You will get a C++ program regardless of whether or not that was the optimum solution to the problem.
If you have more questions that are not answered here, feel free to give us a call at 603-880-8484 to speak directly with one of our experts.