Product Development Case Study

Startup strategy

This is a classic startup tale where a small team do incredibly good work to get an idea into a demonstrable form and then build a team who can complete the package.

A Melbourne based business came to us with a mechanical prototype operated using 3 Arduino modules and hand wired actuators and drivers that had allowed them to prove the operating principle of their cell processing system. The system was managed by an Excel spreadsheet that allowed them to code the interactions they needed in the spreadsheet itself. This is one of the most impressive uses of Excel as a process controller I’ve seen.

Now they needed us to take that and make it into a robust version that could be transported.

This is a very good example of solving the problems you need to in order to take your next step. This minimise cost now, reduces time to the next step and reduces technical risk.

What we did was to create a set of PCBs that acted as custom shields for the Arduino modules and also provided mechanical support for the drivers, sensors and indicators. The hand soldered wires were replaced by crimped connectors and the whole assembly was now robust enough to put on a plane and allow them to demonstrate to industry experts and potential customers. This they did very successfully.

From Concept Prototype to Production

The next stage was to ditch the Arduino modules and create a more capable embedded system. But they also needed to put together a Control Interface for managing the instrument including in a GMP (Good Manufacturing Practice) environment with laboratory automation, and an editor for creating the programs (recipes) that defined the cell processing steps.

And lastly they also needs to get the manufacturing systems in place and the service support software.

To manage the risks they divided these tasks between 3 different businesses.

Product in action
Product in action

Another Melbourne developer did the control interface and also took control of the manufacturing processes. These processes require ISO 13485 Quality Management Systems which they had in place but we do not.

Successful Endeavours did the electronics, embedded software and the communications interfaces that ran on the tablet used for the Control Interface and the Service and Production Support software.

Contactpoint took on the Centrifuge Protocol Builder which is a web based tool that allowed creation of protocols and also simulation of them in use in order to refine them off the machine. This is very important because we are talking about processing human cells and if you mess up a batch you have to get more. Which could involve surgery. Contactpoint have an excellent Centrifuge Protocol Builder case study on their site which I recommend you also check out.

Protocol Builder
Protocol Builder

And getting to market

The final step of course is how you sell, distribute and support a product like this which is international in scope. Another great thing they did right was to aim global from day one. So they negotiated and closed a deal with an international distributor who already had the global presence in that market and were able to handle the logistics and presence to support the instrument. The product was launched at the Melbourne ISCT 2019 conference in May 2019.

Market Launch at ISCT 2019
Market Launch at ISCT 2019

We wish them every success with this Designed in Australia, Made in Australia, world first technology product. For us, this one just ticks every box we care about.


Successful Endeavours specialise in Electronics Design and Embedded Software Development, focusing on products that are intended to be Made In AustraliaRay Keefe has developed market leading electronics products in Australia for more than 30 years.


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This post is Copyright © 2020 Successful Endeavours Pty Ltd.

Lessons in Product Development

New Product Development

In Product Development Process we looked at all the steps in Product Development. The need can vary a lot and so it is also useful to hear from those who have bright new products to market. So it is with pleasure I can direct you to an excellent resource with 8 lessons from top executives.

 

Here is the list of lessons:

 

  • Melissa Perri: Learn what your users want before shipping
  • Marc Rubner: Deliver a tangible impact for your customers
  • Christophe Gillet: Assess market viability
  • Brian Tubergen: Prioritize the best opportunities
  • Andrea Schneider and Lauren Gilchrist: Educate stakeholders on modern best practices
  • Jeff Gothelf: Define objectives in terms of business problems
  • Jeetu Patel: Build teams that are motivated to execute
  • Eric Ries: Prioritize experimentation

The collation is by Mike Fishbein who interviewed each executives and there are also podcasts expanding on the ideas.

Mike Fishbein

Mike Fishbein

So check out New Product Development: 8 Lessons From Top Executives and enjoy. And thanks Mike for bringing it to my attention.

 

Successful Endeavours specialise in Electronics Design and Embedded Software Development, focusing on products that are intended to be Made In AustraliaRay Keefe has developed market leading electronics products in Australia for more than 30 years. This post is Copyright © 2018 Successful Endeavours Pty Ltd.

 

 

Electronics Design: Prototype

What is a Prototype?

A Prototype is done in order to explore some aspect of a new opportunity without having to fully commit to it yet. Prototype has a number of potential meanings including:

 

  • the original or model on which something is based or formed.
  • someone or something that serves to illustrate the typical qualities of a class; model; exemplar:
  • something analogous to another thing of a later period:
  • Biology. an archetype; a primitive form regarded as the basis of a group.

So a Prototype is either an early model or a smaller scale development to test a new idea.

 

Why Prototype?

So for engineering, we Prototype to reduce risk, and we learn from Prototypes to improve the likelihood of project success by being better informed for the next round of design. So a Prototype is a core Product Development Process Risk Management strategy.

 

Product Development Process

Product Development Process

A Prototype can also reduce other risks such as financial risk or market risk and isn’t always done for technical risk reasons.

 

Financial risk can be managed by breaking a project up into a series of stages and only committing funds to a stage when its predecessor has been successfully completed. A Prototype is often done ahead of a major block of Product Development to test whether the technical approach is likely to succeed and provide early warning of unexpected problems or interactions.

 

Market risk can be managed by trialling a new product idea with a smaller group of candidate customers to gauge their acceptance of the product. This has to be well managed however as history has shown that this approach, especially in the case of focus groups, can often just elicit the outcome the company hoped for and not a real example of how the market will react. Just look at all the failed Coca Cola new flavour launches.

 

And of course, technical risk can be managed by making Prototypes that implement the highest risk features as early as possible. We covered this in Improving Product Development.

 

A Prototype can often be used during Engineering Analysis in order to evaluate the effectiveness of different options for addressing the Requirements. This is covered in Electronics Design Process.

 

Successful Endeavours Development Process

Successful Endeavours Development Process

And then having designed a product it is normal to build a Prototype to ensure the final solution works as expected. This manages the risk that production tooling might need rework or even redesign.

 

How to Prototype?

This depends on the problem you want to solve. For this section we will focus on technical risks. A Prototype is very useful to allow you to measure some essential elements of the final product without committing to a final solution. So you can explore:

 

  • modelling a problem and simulations
  • noise and interference
  • power consumption
  • performance versus cost (compare several different prototypes)
  • responsiveness
  • system resources required
  • hardware versus software solutions
  • temperature rise
  • materials properties
  • shape and usability / ergonomics
  • fit (especially PCBs in mechanical housings)

And the list can go on. The key is to determine where the risk is and manage that. In Project Management Pre-preparation we looked at using a Prototype to reduce both technical and financial risk at the same time. In this case, other developers hadn’t been able to produce a working product so the client had a clear risk to manage. And our approach was to make a jig that allowed us to explore the sensing that was needed and get real data to then analyse and develop a solution. The same jig allowed the solution to then be tested before we designed the Electronics PCBs and Embedded Software needed for the final product. And the client was able to authorise each next level of expenditure with confidence based on us having delivered against the requirements for the previous stage.

 

Simulation

Simulation

And of course, 3D Printing for Electronics has enormously expanded the possibilities for mechanical prototypes by allowing anyone to quickly build and test the fit of objects together. It is also a viable option for low volume manufacturing.

 

3D Printed Spacer

3D Printed Spacer

3D Printed Spacer Fitted

3D Printed Spacer Fitted

 

Successful Endeavours specialise in Electronics Design and Embedded Software Development, focusing on products that are intended to be Made In AustraliaRay Keefe has developed market leading electronics products in Australia for more than 30 years. This post is Copyright © 2017 Successful Endeavours Pty Ltd.

Design Led Innovation

Design Led Innovation

Traditional Product Development comes up with the product idea, does the development, gets it into production and then tries to find customers to sell it to.

 

Design Led Innovation tries to turn that process around so the actual needs of the customer or user become part of both the product definition and the business model development. If you haven’t already heard of it, check out the Business Model Canvas.

 

I get the opportunity to present on topics like Innovation to Business Groups and even MBA programs and one of the interesting statistics I use is that the number one area for Innovation in the world today is the Business Model.

 

How Does Design Led Innovation Work?

So how does this all work?

 

Design Led Innovation

Design Led Innovation Process

 

In Design Led Innovation, the expected outcome is that when you engage with your customer, and begin to understand their needs, then you can start to offer them something that has much higher value for them and allows you to get a better price for offering that much higher value. The outcome is the classic win:win that great business is meant to deliver. And it is a key factor in not getting caught in the classic commodity service price war with the client’s purchasing officer driving the process.

 

It is also a continuous process. One description is that it is like “rebuilding the plane while it is in flight”.

 

Sounds scary, but the results seem to show it is well worth doing.

 

Design Led Innovation session at SEBN

At a recent SEBN breakfast session we heard from Tricomposite about their  experience of using Design Led Innovation to revolutionise their business and not only service their existing customers better, but offer them products they didn’t even know they wanted and create a much better value offering for them than they had ever considered before. And this has opened up potential market offerings to other customers who they would never have considered they could work with.

 

Here are the themes they explored in finding this offering:

 

  • focus on designers, not buyers
  • test is time pressure leads to design mistakes
  • test is rapid full-sized final material prototypes were valuable
  • test if there was room for service level agreements
  • test if there was room for collaborative design

 

And the answer to 4 of these was a resounding yes. Only the service level agreement test failed. Basically, customers expect service as a given. But the rest has opened up a complete rethink of their business. In fact, they shared that it was their existing perspective on their business that proved to be their biggest limiting factor.

 

 

Business Model Canvas

Rethinking the Business Model is a key component of Design Led Innovation. But not as an end in itself. Only after understanding your customer’s real needs can you determine how to make it easier to do business with them.

 

I recommend getting the Business Model Canvas book and taking advantage of the free downloads at Strategyzer. Here is a example of one of their tools.

 

Business Model Canvas Example

Business Model Canvas Example

 

Successful Endeavours specialise in Electronics Design and Embedded Software Development, focusing on products that are intended to be Made In Australia. Ray Keefe has developed market leading electronics products in Australia for more than 30 years. This post is Copyright © 2016 Successful Endeavours Pty Ltd.

Product Development – what they don’t tell you

Product Development

As a process, Product Development can be handled a number of different ways. And if your product only requires input from a single technical discipline which you are very experienced in, then you can usually predict everything you need to do and just make sure it all happens the right way.

 

But if the product is complex, involves many disciplines, and has unknowns about the technical direction to take, then it can sometimes resemble a roller coaster ride more than it does a straight forward journey. And there can be unexpected bumps along the way.

 

Our most recent employee brought this video to my attention and I thought it covered this topic really well. We used it for an in house lunch and learn session so I recommend you check it out to. It isn’t short so you might want to set aside a time you can sit back and enjoy it.

 

The presented is Andrew “Bunnie” Huang and the conference he is presenting at is linux.conf.au 2013.

 

Quite a list of things you can run into just getting a fully package embedded computing device ready for market. The HDMI Man In The Middle exploit was my favourite part.

 

Successful Endeavours specialise in Electronics Design and Embedded Software Development. Ray Keefe has developed market leading electronics products in Australia for nearly 30 years. This post is Copyright © 2015 Successful Endeavours Pty Ltd.