In business administration, product development or product engineering is a product strategy that deals with the development of new products or services or their quality improvement in a planned manner. The product range of a single-product or especially multi-product company requires constant adaptation to market developments. Product development can help to take market development into account. In addition to product differentiation, product variation, product innovation, product elimination and lifecycle management, product development is one of the fields of action of product strategy. Product development is the most important part of the product development process. Product development occurs when companies offer modified or new products/services in existing markets.
Description of Phases
Product development includes the phases of product planning, product design and product testing. The product development process is usually iterative, so that when working at a later stage, previous work can be revisited and its previous results can be corrected.
The starting point for product development is product planning, which proceeds with the help of ideas such as brainstorming and evaluates the ideas. In doing so, product research also examines existing in-house products or competing products. This is followed by pre-development and design. This is followed by in-house tests of the prototype, followed by product design and pricing in the event of positive results. The market test or store test precedes the actual market launch. Product development therefore starts with the initial idea and extends to the market launch; this entire process is called time-to-market.
The aim of the work is to draw up a specification sheet. In an intensive market analysis, for example, a development task is formulated in the automotive industry with the help of the following questions:
- What is the customer’s request?
- What does the competition offer?
- Where can we find new product ideas?
- Who is our target audience?
- Where in the product life cycle is our previous product?
- What is the benefit?
When developing complex products that are to be manufactured in medium batch sizes, target cost construction is helpful, in which the market price of a product is first determined before development begins. Once the specifications have been drawn up, technical possibilities for realizing the product are examined at the functional level within the development departments; the specifications for the development are created. In the event of discrepancies between the specifications and functional specifications, a comparison must take place before the actual product development begins with the placing of the order.
Product development can be based on the developing company’s own ideas as well as on customer requirements. In the latter case, Quality Function Deployment helps to translate the voice of the customer into technical data. Product ideas and customer requirements can be excellently modeled in user-centered operational scenarios and then structured in functional-logical architecture in the concept phase.
The solution to the task must be determined in principle, and a concept must be developed. In principle, a variety of solutions are possible. In order to recognize them in addition to previously known solutions, it is advantageous to find the essence of the task through an abstract representation of the product function.
The product function is broken down into sub-functions (in the case of a dishwasher, the dishes have to be fed and stored, among other things, in addition to cleaning), which also has the advantage that groups working in parallel can already be used in this phase on large projects. In such a logical architecture, there are different solution principles for each sub-function in the form of predominantly physical effects (the dishes could be cleaned by cleaning, shaking, washing or otherwise). By linking the principles found for each subfunction, a large number of solution variants for the overall function are created. They are abstract, the hallmark is their effective structure, which can be represented in block diagrams, the logical architecture. Impossible variants are quickly recognizable. The remaining multitude must be reduced to one (or a few) solution principle through an evaluation before a (or few) designs can be made.
Systematic and methodical evaluation is one of the essential features of modern product development. Functionaries are added to the selected solution principle. The design phase begins with the resulting real concept and the associated logical architecture.
The solution presented as a concept is to be determined in terms of design. This is done by engineers, technicians, or product designers. First, the functional carriers (building blocks) are assembled to a rough scale. Once they have been dimensioned quantitatively (e.g. strength calculation), aesthetic, ergonomic, safety-related and production-appropriate, a detailed scale design is created.
The design must be worked out in such a way that the product can be mass-produced. Elaboration is the classic activity of designing, whereby the construction documents are created. The resulting physical model of the product architecture is also effectively produced using MBSE methods. Ideally, the models, drawings and simulation results from the design and elaboration phase are managed, versioned and made available for later phases of product development (prototypes, production, assembly, service) using modern methods of product life cycle management.
Once the individual part drawings are available, prototypes are already made and tested in order to eliminate drawing or older errors in principle. Assembly drawings are created only afterwards. A so-called pilot series is used to check whether all aids, such as special tools and fixtures, are suitable for series production. For economic reasons (avoidance of rejects), production in large series is preceded by a small initial series in order to guarantee trouble-free production.
As a rule, the market launch of market-ready products is already started with prototypes, which are offered to selected customers for testing (market communication). The product life cycle begins with the market launch. If the product sells well after appropriate advertising measures, the acceptance management accompanying the product development has also been successful.