The Product Development Process - Step 1 - Overview

The Product Development ProcessThis article is an overview, as a guide, for how new products come to market.  Think of it as a map for your great idea to become a new product.  Over several pages we will outline steps of the process - with many things to consider.  This is The Product Development Process.

Step 1  —  Process Overview

The Bright Idea
the "Bright Idea"
(Step 1)

Our first step is to understand the map.  We must first know, a little, in general terms, where this path will take us.  So, we will start by introducing the Product Development Process, and why we wrote this article.

In our work we see a lot of inventors.  We love inventors.  They have great ideas, and they are thinkers  . . .  and we like that.  Yet, after the great idea, inventors often struggle with what to do.  It is not a fault, they just have not done it, so they don't know.  An invention is wonderful, but the idea is only an idea - until, through a process, it becomes a reality.

I am often asked:  "How do I get my great idea (invention) to market?"   - An excellent question with a not-so-simple answer.  Creating a new product is more than just making a few parts.  It happens through a process we call "Product Development".

From the Author:  My career is an awesome adventure in design and development.  Things in these articles I have learned while helping to bring hundreds of products to market.  This article, and pages, address many of the common questions and misconceptions about "What should I do next?"

For a couple years, I recorded the many questions people asked, along with the answers.  Eventually, I compiled them all into this set of articles.  The menu on the right has links to all the article pages, or, you can follow the link at the bottom of each page to the next article.

A Simplistic Map:

Let's start with a graphic, we will call it a map.  We could illustrate it in a number of different ways, but this one is done to follow the steps with these articles.

The Product Development Process

The Product Development Process Flow

This simple flow chart leaves out many details, so we will fill them in page by page.  For now, just know that it is not as simple as the diagram shows, AND it is not as overwhelming as some people make it sound.

Also, the flow is not linear like the illustration seems to suggest.  There will be back and forth, up and down.  For instance, Step 2 is defining the 'Requirements', but there is no way to know all the requirements prior to getting more deeply into the design.  Prototyping can show us new things as requirements, or change how we view what we need (or don't need) to patent.  The true map is messy if you try to plot it, but don't worry, it does not feel that way when you are on it.

See the menu on the right for links to all the Product Development Process Article pages.  Or, follow along step by step using the links at the bottom of each page.

Start at the Beginning:

The "Product Development Process" starts with a great idea, then ends, hopefully, with your desirable product in hand.  Morphing the "Bright Idea" into a "Final Product" is a process of thinking through issues and adaptations, working out details, finding compromises, and defining all the specifics.

In this process we will examine things like how it is made, materials, possible failure modes, required regulations, patents, and intellectual property protection – all as part of the process.  It is, therefore, a unique path for every new product.  But don't worry, there is a lot of commonality, and that is what the pages of this article are all about.

This article with has many pages, written as a perspective - not specifically as a Step by Step guide - but as a way of showing the direction.  It is generic enough to cover a wide range of new ideas and products, yet hopefully specific enough to guide each individual in setting their unique course.

To facilitate discussion we will use an illustrative example of the Product Development Process in action.  We will follow this example through each of article pages showing how it applies.  When you see this shaded box, it is an illustration of the steps.

The Problem  -  (An Illustrative Example):

A few years ago I was looking for new stereo speakers.  I visited stores, read articles, books and magazines.  I talked to friends and sales people.  In the end, I was disappointed that the really "good" speakers were very expensive, and the affordable speakers were ... well, "cheap".  I want great sound without a mortgage.

The Bright Idea:

Design a high-end speaker with amazing performance that I can make, that does not cost a fortune.

For more product development examples, click through the many work samples listed on the Engineering Services page for Product Design and Development.  You may also wish to see the many "Engineering Case Studies" in the Library.

Learning with "The Product Development Process" Article

A simplified diagram of the Product Development Process is shown graphically in the figure above.  Discovering the "Bright Idea" is the first big step, and it usually occurs without much of a method.  Advancing that idea and solidifying the details is the essence of this article (with all of the following pages).

Take your time with these pages.  They all have good information as you plot your course, on your unique path.  Yes, the exact process for each new product idea is as unique as the idea, yet we will cover the many "typical" steps in the following pages.  The side menu includes all the product development steps, as well as some important additional reading.  Select the hyperlinks to read it all.

Continue DevelopmentNext Up:  Step 2  -  New Product Requirements

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