New Product Development Steps & How to Address NPD Challenges

  • What is new product development (NPD)?

To create the next product in a company’s product line a design team goes through product development process steps. Starting with a product idea, the team moves through several stages to generate all the details and documents needed to get the product built. A NEW product development (NPD) process goes through the same steps, however as this product has not been developed by the team before, new risks and uncertainties are introduced and often additional information is documented and shared with manufacturing.

Basic new product development steps

There are five basic steps in a new product development process: Concept, Ideation, Design, Test and Release.

  1. Concept — The concept step sets basic direction and boundaries for the entire development process by clarifying the type of product, the problem the product solves and the financial and technical goals to be achieved by the product.
  2. Ideation — During the ideation step the team brainstorms to discover some of the many ways a product can solve the problem and meet internal goals. Ideas are evaluated and the most promising are selected for further investigation.
  3. Design — It’s in this step that the execution of the “best” way to create and construct the product happens. Engineering details are generated to flesh out the high level concepts from the ideation stage.
  4. Test — Testing verifies if the product meets the original goals or if additional refinement is needed.
  5. Release — Once testing has confirmed that the product solves the problem and will meet the company goals; it is ready to start the new product introduction (NPI) process and get the product built!

New product development steps — iterate as necessary

The basic steps of the new product development process are listed above as stages that follow each other, but in reality the process is cyclical, not linear. Ideation, Design and Test steps are repeated over and over again, at varying depths of detail and on different subsystems, until the product design is complete.

New Product Development Steps

The pace at which NPD cycles move can be fast with lots and lots of changes to parts, assemblies and BOMs. During design, companies often do not follow the form-fit-function (FFF) rules that get followed in production, but they will use revisions to take snap shots of a design at a moment in time. Teams typically establish new revisions when they want to create prototypes. At this point the design is temporarily frozen as models, drawings, specifications and BOMs get updated to the next revision.

Keeping track of all the different changes made during these cycles can be difficult even if the design team is located within the same building. And if multiple people have access to editable documents (e.g. MS Word specs, MS Excel BOMs) changes made that were not agreed to by all necessary parties will cause misunderstandings. Read-only PDFs can help this matter, but this fix is just a temporary solution for a larger problem. If a company doesn’t have a common understanding around when revisions are created and by whom, and where they are stored, this lack of control can lead to confusion and chaos.

Address NPD challenges with a little bit of process

Once all the iteration, design and testing has been completed, it’s time to enter the release stage and get the product built. The release stage is also the beginning of the New Product Introduction (NPI) process where information is handed-off to manufacturing for ramp and product planning. With some revision control, spec and process work in the steps leading up to this point, the time and labor needed to generate the data manufacturing needs can be minimized.

Here’s how to tackle challenges during new product development stages:

  1. Take snapshots of the design at major points during the process, like when releasing files for prototyping. Keep track of modifications of both part and BOM revisions so you won’t have to second guess changes that occurred. Again, using Word or Excel alone to capture this information can be problematic whereas PDFs provide a solid reflection of the design at that point in time.
  2. Collect all the product documents, including all types of files, and organize them in an easy to navigate folder structure. This will free up time when you need to gather information to give to manufacturing; you won’t have to dig through several different locations if documents are maintained in a centralized location.
  3. Be consistent with the naming conventions for all your files including manufacturer’s data sheets for off-the-shelf parts as well as internal CAD drawing files. Name files so that they can be easily associated with the right component or assembly within a product. With easily recognizable nomenclature you’ll be able to tell the associated part number and revision from the file name. Everyone will have an easier time knowing what information they have and won’t have to open a lot of documents to find the right data.

Use systems to help NPD processes

With revision control processes in place and data collected in one location, everyone will know where to find the latest information and be able to tell what happened along the way. While this can be done through manual edits to files collected on corporate servers there are systems available to help maintain all the documentation and keep related items together while giving access to team members anywhere in the world.

As mentioned above, the product development process isn’t always ALL brand new; for example, the new product can use several of the exact same resistors that are already used in an existing product. Having a system where you can pull all the related documents of a previously used part will save you time from gathering the information all over again. Not only does this make it easier during the new product development design stage, it helps during the last stage when information is released to manufacturing.

Transition from NPD to NPI made smooth

The new product development process is all about creating and defining the next new product. It involves lots of change at all levels of the BOM and NPD steps are often reiterated. By managing changes with basic processes or even a revision control system in place you’ll stop wasting time on tasks like looking for the right documents. You’ll also keep everyone aware of what’s changed and by whom. A centralized system can provide everyone access to the right product information regardless of where they are working— at office headquarters, home office or manufacturing sites. As a result, you get a smoother transition from the final stage in NPD to manufacturing NPI.

New Product Development in Arena PLM

Arena PLM is a cloud-based solution for bill of materials (BOM) and change management. It gives you a controlled, centralized way to manage your product data from anywhere in the world, and makes it easy to include strategic partners, suppliers and contract manufacturers in your product development process.

  • Get your whole team on the same page with centralized product data
  • Control product changes with solid process control
  • Share the right BOM every time and build prototypes quickly

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