The Development Step Process
for Electronic Products
Development of new products requires that an orderly
set of phases or "steps" be followed by the engineering, marketing, and
manufacturing teams to avoid costly mistakes. Industry experience has demonstrated that it
may cost three to ten times more to correct oversights, which should have been
accomplished in a preceding phase. A summary of the primary Steps, which have come to be
generally accepted as an efficient development process, follows. Emphasis here is on the
engineering design aspects, but they apply in principle to all company divisions such as
marketing and finance.
STEP ZERO: Introductory Phase
Initial product definition and "getting to know each
other" phase. This phase also highlights major work tasks to be done.
STEP ONE: Concept, Feasibility,
A product is broadly defined based upon a perceived market need.
Marketing and Engineering jointly determine market, technical and regulatory feasibility.
Intense government regulations in most industries determine a design as much as market
requirements. Engineering may model high-risk subsystems to build needed technical
confidence. They then issue a summary report of findings and a beginning product
Deliverable: One or more
technical study reports are created which typically summarizes study findings and a
preliminary product specification with sketches, etc.
STEP TWO: First Prototype (Lab
Proto / Alpha Proto)
A project team is selected, a kick-off meeting is held and product
spec.'s are further defined along with regulatory requirements (U/L, IEC, EU, FDA, RoHS,
etc.) A "lab-protoype" model is designed and built to assure design bugs are
corrected before commitment to tooling. Documentation and computer "firmware/
software" code are usually informal during this phase. Engineering and
marketing meetings are held as needed to formalize a first working product specification.
Industry experience has shown that many clients push to bypass this phase and rush to get
the product tooled prematurely. This has proven to be a costly mistake! Occasionally, the
product needs further definition in the "field" and then an "alpha"
prototype is made and deployed to get real-world performance data. Thus, this Step may
sometimes be split into two distinct steps.
Deliverable: A Lab Prototype
and/ or "alpha" working model, minimum documentation, a more complete
specification, and a summary report.
STEP THREE: Production Prototypes
This Step requires funding for parts, build, and tooling (plastic
molds, PWB's, panel graphics, initial regulatory compliance testing, etc.) for a small
number of the product. The product team is expanded to include manufacturing personnel.
The team creates a more detailed specification (and marketing focus group study, financial
plans, etc.) Engineering then designs, documents, tools and procures sufficient parts to
manufacture and test a small evaluation build (2 to 5 typical). These prototypes may be
used for regulatory testing, marketing shows, etc. but are NOT usually sold.
Deliverable: Completed primary
manufacturing documentation and 2 to 5 working prototypes. Initial regulatory agency test
results and needed product changes are also completed, if applicable.
STEP FOUR: Pilot Production
The first fully controlled and documented products are made for
initial sales during this Step. This is a vital phase for cooperation between engineering
and the manufacturing company personnel. Typically ten to twenty products are made with
responsibility gradually shifting from engineering to full manufacturing operations as
engineering completes and debugs both the product and its documentation. Test procedures
and test sets are needed to support manufacturing.
manufacturing documentation, fully trained manufacturing personnel, test sets and a modest
quantity of delivered product.
STEP FIVE: Early Production
During this phase, manufacturing personnel largely handle the
product's build and support. The documentation is placed under formal control (ECN's,
DCO's, etc.) and engineering provides sign-off and review of any needed changes until the
product is technically stable.