Section 4 Functional viability

January 30th, 2013 Leave a comment Go to comments
WINNERS = Products which do more than you had originally thought they would.

In order to be functionally viable, a product must work well, every time it is used.  If there is any downtime expected, it better be small in proportion to the time saved when the product is up and running.  A computer is a good example.  Almost all of us have been, directly or indirectly, the victim of a computer breakdown at one time or another.  It is frustrating, but the darn things save so much time when they are running that we cannot do without them.

On the other hand, if a tool or product, which is not a big timesaver, breaks down constantly and we are forced to spend time repairing it or fighting with it, chances are we will discard it quickly, refuse to buy another one, and spread the word about how poor a value the product is.

When evaluating new products, it is important to realize that the perceived value of the invention is in direct proportion to how well it works.  Until a product is in the form of a working prototype, most buyers consider it to be pure fantasy.  There are four stages of prototype development.

1.  The proof-of-concept model

2.  The refined prototype

3.  The pre production model..(last chance to change before tooling is made)

4.  The first article sample..(last chance to modify before production run)

 My advice is never invest in any product until you have seen the proof-of-concept model operate, unless:

1.  The principles of operation of the product are so simple that you know it will work.  Be objective, don’t guess!

2.  You are willing to gamble money which you can afford to lose on an R & D program to build the proof-of-concept model, because the gamble could result in new technology and a profitable business opportunity.

You should always evaluate a new product from a design standpoint to see if it can be made simpler, lighter, stronger and less costly to produce than its competitors or products that fall into the same categories.  Making it simpler will make it less costly to manufacture, maintain and repair.  Making it lighter will reduce shipping costs which can rise sharply with fuel costs, and can give the product a price advantage when competing in a price driven market.  Making the product more durable can result in less returns and warranty claims.  Making the product less costly to produce enables you to offer a better value to your customers while again giving you an advantage in a price driven market.

Secret:  If you are in the process of building and testing prototypes, and you are on a tight budget, always ask suppliers and vendors to provide you with “free samples for testing” of the parts, components and sub-assemblies you need.  I am always amazed to find that many of my clients are unaware of how easily they can obtain free parts for prototype development.  In many cases it is cheaper for the supplier to send the part than it is for them to bill you for it because of the paperwork involved.  The trick here is if you don’t ask for it you won’t get it.  I can’t tell you how many times I have had companies eagerly ship me a complete assembly, VIA FEDERAL EXPRESS just on the gamble that I would buy hundreds or thousands of their products once the production started.

Secret: When it comes time to design the packaging for your prototype, most box companies will design a box and master pack shipping container, and supply you with hand made samples, at no charge, if you suggest that you may use their company to do your production packaging runs.

Secret: Whenever I have a client who is in process of designing a new product or getting ready to go into production, I always use “RIORDAN’S VENDOR EDUCATION PROGRAM”.  I call in every supplier of the type of equipment which will be used to produce the product, and I ask all of them to provide a detailed plan of the equipment they recommend, suggestions for product improvements for better manufacturability, suggestions for suppliers of other components I will need, etc.  I never fail to learn something and it doesn’t cost me a dime.  ALMOST ALWAYS, MY VENDOR EDUCATION PROGRAM RESULTS IN A PRODUCT IMPROVEMENT, WHICH ENHANCES THE FUNCTIONAL VIABILITY, IN THE PRE-PRODUCTION STAGES WHEN I CAN INCORPORATE IT THE EASIEST.



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