Are you looking to develop a new product and bring it to market? In this article, we’ll share the importance of proving the effectiveness and commercial viability of your product before investing significant resources in its development. Through real-life case studies, we’ll explore the dangers of not properly assessing a product’s feasibility and the benefits of conducting a comprehensive assessment, including analysing projected costs, estimating time to market, assessing potential returns on investment, and evaluating expenses for tooling. We’ll also share valuable tips on how to prove a product’s technical feasibility, commercial viability, and market appeal, as well as the importance of involving engineers and manufacturers in the development process. Join us as we take a deep dive into the world of product development and explore the key steps to ensuring a successful outcome and a return on investment.
First, I will share a cautionary tale of someone who failed to properly prove their product before investing heavily in its development.
We had a client approach us with a design for a pull-along wagon. The design included an impressive suspension system and promotional animations highlighting its off-road capabilities. At first glance, it seemed like an exciting and innovative product.
However, the client’s request for a prototype raised some red flags for us. It was concerning that they already had a design but needed us to create the prototype. This made us question why the designer couldn’t prototype it themselves and why they were commissioned in the first place if they couldn’t. We have a policy of being able to build everything we design, utilising our 2500 sq. feet of workshops, tools, textiles, and hard goods. Even if certain parts need to be sourced from trusted suppliers, we have the capability to assemble any consumer product prototype.
Additionally, one of the challenges with building a prototype from someone else’s design is determining the liability if it doesn’t work as intended. There’s also the question of whether we should redesign it or stick with the existing design.
In this case, we were pressured not to make any changes to the design despite our proposed improvements. We were informed that a redesign would happen later, but the priority was to build the prototype based on the current design. Despite our reservations and concerns, we were persistent in questioning the client’s reasoning and found out that they had spent 7 years and £300,000 developing the current idea, so they were determined to see it work.
We were gob-smacked!
We were shocked to learn that they had already invested £300,000, and all they had was a CAD model and needed us to prototype it. It turned out that they had been persuaded to make costly tooling to produce the design before they had even seen a prototype. Unfortunately, it did not work, and the client had it redesigned by an automotive engineer. When we pointed out how it could be improved, they could not make those changes due to a lack of funds; they only had enough for a prototype. Despite all the challenges, our expert team of senior designers was able to build it, but as we had anticipated, it needed major improvements. Unfortunately, they failed to raise further investment, and the project ultimately failed. We still feel remorse for them. The key takeaway from this situation is to always prove the effectiveness of a product before investing a significant amount of resources in its development.
Another important point to consider is building your design as inexpensively as possible to test its functionality. One cost-effective way to produce a prototype is by using parts from existing products.
We often create basic physical models for clients and advise them to test them, use them, break them if necessary, and, most importantly, see if they work. Clients have often made significant changes to their design after testing a working version themselves. The prototypes may not be visually pleasing, but they effectively prove the concept works, allowing you to focus on aesthetics.
Once you’ve proven that your product works as intended, the next step is demonstrating that it can be produced cost-effectively. This is crucial to know early on in the development process rather than realising it later after investing thousands of pounds.
I also want to share another case study of a client with many ideas for new products but didn’t know where to begin. We assisted them by conducting a feasibility assessment of the different concepts.
This assessment included the following:
- Analysing the projected costs for development
- Estimating the time required to bring the product to market
- Assessing the potential returns on investment
- Evaluating the expenses for tooling
- Identifying the project with the lowest risk
- Determining the project most likely to succeed and starting with that one.
It is important to consider sales at the start of the development process rather than waiting until the end. Many people become too focused on materials, colours, and other technical aspects without considering the financial aspect. To ensure a successful project with a return on investment, it is best to start with the commercial aspects and then work backwards. This is because we are eager for the project bring a return on investment and ultimately becomes a commercial success.
Because it leads to potential future opportunities to work with the client on developing upgraded versions or new products.
With this approach in mind, after conducting a feasibility assessment and selecting a project, we moved on to concept development and created basic physical models. We also conducted market research with the client’s team and target audience to ensure the product’s appeal. We then demonstrated the technical feasibility, ensured it could be produced at the intended cost and conducted research to prove its commercial viability. This comprehensive approach helped us to confirm that the product would be successful.
All this work happens in the initial commercial feasibility stage, which is crucial for the project’s success. Unlike other design agencies that only develop products for visualisation, D2M has extensive experience developing products that go into production. We can cost a product early on and provide budgetary numbers for manufacturing setup, including tooling and unit cost. This information allows you to determine the project’s commercial viability before investing in expensive prototypes. This is how we manage risk during the development of an innovative project.
After successfully proving the project’s commercial viability, we developed CAD models and prototypes and engaged in detailed discussions with the manufacturer. This step is crucial, as it allows you to involve the engineers responsible for designing your product’s tooling and production process right from the early stages of development.
This step may seem obvious, but designers often work in isolation, disregarding the other individuals involved in bringing a product to market. With this project, we completed the design and oversaw the first production run. We celebrated the arrival of the first container of products in the UK with a bottle of champagne. This moment is truly rewarding, as it represents the project’s culmination that began as an idea in the shower.
(Personally, I find that I have many of my best ideas in the shower, which is why I always keep a waterproof notepad handy to jot down those ideas before they go down the drain.)
In conclusion, these case studies demonstrate the importance of proving a product’s effectiveness and commercial viability before investing resources in its development.
Now that you understand the basics of this rule let’s expand on it:
- Prove that the product hasn’t been patented already.
- Prove that the product works by assessing its Technical Feasibility.
- Prove that the product can be produced cost-effectively through Commercial Viability analysis.
- Prove that the product will sell by conducting Market Research and Focus Groups.
- Prove that the product is patentable by getting a Patentability Opinion.