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Product-development pitfalls? There are resources out there!

March 27, 2020
Tap into state, local and online resources to tailor products.

By John Morehouse, Director of the Georgia Center of Innovation for Manufacturing 

The Georgia Center of Innovation for Manufacturing’s mission is to help grow the state’s manufacturing industry by working with Georgia manufacturers of all sizes to help them solve problems and innovate their products, processes and workforce. We work with more than 100 entrepreneurs, startups and small businesses each year as they strive to bring new manufactured products to market.

Georgia Center of Innovation for Manufacturing 's John Morehouse

Developing new manufactured products is a uniquely complicated, expensive and time-consuming process. (You’re likely well aware of this.) We often tell entrepreneurs starting at the concept stage that it could take them up to a year and a half and $1M to get their product to store shelves.

 Our goal is not to scare them! Rather, we want to motivate companies to follow two critical steps at the beginning of the product-development process to help them successfully and cost-effectively develop products customers will want to buy.

Don’t build any prototypes…until you learn the basic steps required to take a physical product from concept to manufacturing

Entrepreneurs developing a manufactured product must understand the basic steps required to take a product from an idea to the store shelves and into the hands of paying customers. Some key steps include understanding the target customer, creating basic prototypes, iterating with increasingly complex prototypes based on customer feedback, designing for manufacturability, safety/regulatory testing, manufacturing process design, tooling creation and at-scale manufacturing-process validation. To fully understand all of these steps, we start by suggesting that the team invest a few hours reading a book on the subject. Several good books are available, including “Bringing a Hardware Product to Market” by Elaine Chen, “Prototype to Product” by Alan Cohen or “Product Design and Development” by Karl Ulrich and Steven D. Eppinger.

Don’t build any prototypes…until you understand and validate the needs of your target customers and create a business model to match

To help entrepreneurs and small businesses develop products that people will want to buy, we counsel them to follow the lean-startup methodology, which uses early feedback from potential customers to both inform and later iterate on the product’s design. The feedback may also give a company good reason to pivot to a completely new product idea and business model that will meet the true needs identified by target customers.

Entrepreneurs and small businesses can tap into a wealth of resources to learn more about lean-startup methods, customer discovery and business-model generation. They can contact their state or local economic development departments, do an online search for state and local accelerator programs, search their local university’s website, contact their state’s manufacturing extension partnership (MEP), or even locate the closest maker-space using the Nation of Makers website.

Making connections with any of these resources, especially the state’s MEP and the local-maker space, can prove very helpful as entrepreneurs begin to build prototypes and work through the engineering design and manufacturing phases of product development. Don’t be afraid to make that first call!

Get it here...Technology Report: Industrial Networks: A Structured Approach to Smart Manufacturing

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