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Bringing Technology to Your Business - Part II: New Product Development

Having analyzed the importance of implementing a strategic analysis of your process and current technologies, we turn our focus toward new product development and the systems and practices associated with it.

There are many uncertainties and challenges companies face throughout the development process, from conception through automation to commercialization, but solutions are usually right around the corner. The eight steps to transform a market opportunity into a product available for sale include:

  1. Conceptualize
  2. Visualize
  3. Specify
  4. Prototype
  5. Test and refine
  6. Pre-production
  7. Manufacture
  8. Enhance

It goes without saying that before all else, you need an idea. Some of the most innovative ideas are always a market opportunity, but not necessarily market driven. HVTDC has seen several of its clients derive their ideas from passion, convenience, and sometimes humanitarian purposes such as environmental causes.

One such entrepreneur, now a producer of locally made reusable loose produce and bulk goods bags, fancied an idea as a sustainable alternative to single-purpose plastic bags usually found in produce sections of grocery stores. Her reusable mesh bags are made from non-toxic, breathable fabric and are machine washable to be reused again and again. Likewise, an entrepreneur in New York City observed the unevenly controlled steam radiator systems that bring about uncomfortable temperatures in most of the older buildings in the city. Rather than stand by and watch as energy was wasted and residents swelter, he and his startup are revolutionizing the way office and apartment buildings are heated by transforming cast-iron radiators into radiator-based energy efficient heaters.

Another such case revolved around both a passion for music and an entrepreneurial spirit and desire to help those with physical or cognitive disabilities. This client has found a way to enable quadriplegics the ability to share the positive effects of music and develop a fun and creative way to exercise their lungs with a revolutionary hands-free electronic instrument.

Last, but certainly not least, products are sometime born out of convenience or necessity. A Hudson Valley design engineering and contract manufacturer recently introduced an innovative building automation system to enhance their existing products’ user interface for functionality. This has allowed them to develop an expanded building management system that includes value added services in areas such as HVAC, lighting, and security. In the same vein, another client patented, developed, engineered, and commenced manufacture of the first of ten industry-leading wireless products that remotely automate the control and monitoring of electrical systems for entire buildings. These innovative controls reduce energy consumption by up to 30%, reducing the customer’s utility costs, improving the reliability and streamlining the maintenance of the building’s lighting system, and enhancing the safety of the customer’s facilities.

Once these ideas were conceived, they were visualized and put into a framework before that framework’s details and specifications were determined. What began as a simple sketch on a napkin or a Playdough model began taking shape. The structure, specifications, and features were established before moving on to the next step in development. After the prototypes were built, they were tested and refined for manufacture. This phase often followed a rinse-and-repeat model of refining the actual product, even testing a working model with focus groups when appropriate. It is here that they entered pre-production, when sample evaluations, quality management, and compliance certifications came into play. Establishing quality and reliability evaluations were key before entering into the realm of supply chain development and end-of-life strategies.

Following pre-production were ramp-to-volume manufacturing, documentation, quality systems testing, inventory testing, and supply chain implementation. Then came the fun part when the products were made available to the public. Those that meticulously followed the preceding steps were quick to recognize the value of their hard work when they were forced back into production to cover increasing demand for the new product. For those that reach that penultimate step, the process usually ends with product enhancements, sometimes leading to new products branching out or the product’s absolution.

Ultimately, developing and launching a new product can make or break a business, especially a startup business. For a business owner, understanding the basic steps in new product development can minimize risks while maximizing the chances for success.

Stay tuned for Part III of “Bringing Technology to Your Business” in the April issue of our newsletter featuring methods for enhancing your manufacturing performance. For more information, please contact Business Development Advisor, Ralph Brown, at 914-393-9876, or ralph.brown@hvtdc.org.