There is a point in the product development journey when your concept becomes more than just an idea and takes a physical form of a prototype. Many entrepreneurs think this is the last step of developing a prototype and skip the necessary steps to determine if your prototype meets the need you originally intended it to because they view a completed prototype as a successful one. To determine if your creation is a successful one, we must first evaluate what that success looks like for your prototype.
The LA New Product Development Team’s philosophy on prototyping measures the success of a prototype by how cost-effective it is and how closely it meets the intended need. A cost-effective prototype doesn’t always mean the least expensive option, however; it means that all of the resources put into developing it work to produce a final product that can have the highest impact once it goes to market, at the best available cost. Here are three tips to follow when making a prototype to help ensure it meets both criteria.
- Identifying the purpose of the prototype- This initial step will help you and the company building your prototype set exact criteria and requirements for your product. This helps to ensure that the prototype has all the characteristics necessary to achieve the goals you set for it. Performing initial market research or receiving early customer feedback are both great ways to help identify the product’s purpose.
- Achieving cost-effectiveness- As soon as the first physical model is created, there are endless opportunities to both improve the product and to reduce its cost to create. The initial prototype and each one thereafter shows you each of the tangible flaws and defects in design, functionality, and materials, as well as any issues with assembly – all of which can help you optimize your product for manufacturing. Finding ways to optimize your product during this stage helps to reduce risks and cuts down on unnecessary expenses later in the process.
- Creating more than one prototype- The number of prototypes built during the iteration phase varies from case to case. For example, when our LA NPDT team worked on an in-house project at the Intertech Science Park to develop the Up Dock charging station, we built over 14 different prototypes to fine-tune the design, and perfect its efficiency. Building several different porotypes saved us a lot of money in later product development stages and ended up streamlining the manufacturing process. This happened because each prototype gave us the ability to come up with new creative solutions on how to simplify the design but make sure it continued to function as initially intended.
The most important thing to remember when building a prototype is to not get intimidated by the number of prototypes you may need to create. Instead, look at each iteration as an opportunity to refine your product and to refine it from every angle. Your end product may even exceed your expectations! Following a methodical process in developing your product will increase the success your product has once it goes to market. For an overview on the product development process, read our article Steps to Make a Prototype, and contact us at Intertech One with any prototyping questions you may have.
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Onega Ulanova, MBA, MS
Co-Founder of LA New Product Development Team