Hardware product development and iteration: Ideas from a supply chain perspective

Dr. Dickson Wambua, COO/CTO Cloudsyte

10 Aug 2021


In today’s dynamic and competitive environment, efficient product development has become a critical component of success in the hardware industry. Customer demands and changing trends create the need to continuously iterate and create new products. Smaller companies with limited resources find it challenging to keep up with the pace.

In this article, I share solutions from my recent conversations with over 250 product companies. If you are involved in creating a new product, these tips should help.

Throughout the process, your design, marketing, sales, supply chain, and management teams should all be on one page. Consider adopting tools or software that will provide a means to manage bills of materials, quality control, engineering change orders, purchase orders, logistics, supplier collaboration, and analytics. Such tools have become affordable with some companies offering startup packages. Check out an option at cloudsyte.com

Think about product development in the steps below and maximize your efficiency in each step.

1. Brainstorming and Idea Generation even on a limited budget

Source ideas from multiple outlets such as customers, competitors, articles, colleagues, and suppliers. The information generated during this step guides the rest of the process. Even with a limited budget, you can source quality data from research articles online, surveys on social media, and live customer interviews. Typically, only a small set of ideas move to the next step.

2. Idea screening - collaborate and weed out unviable ideas

Scrutinize each idea and only proceed with the most viable options. Why will succeed? what can make it fail? Seek the opinion of colleagues, customers, suppliers, and any other stakeholders to avoid developing a nice-looking gadget that no one needs. Be sure to consider external factors such as legislation, supply chain limitations, technology changes, and customer demands that may influence the performance of your product.

3. Concept Development - conduct a SWOT analysis and identify risks

Find out the potential costs, revenues, and profits from your product. Conduct a SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) and identify any risks involved with the product. This research will help identify your ideal customer profile and will have a huge impact on how you market the product.

4. Supplier choice and product development - contract manufacture or do it inhouse

Identify production challenges and how to solve them. Create the first prototypes and QC them thoroughly, iterate where necessary.

If you will be using a contract manufacturer, I can’t stress enough about the importance of supplier choice. You need consistency in quality, supply, and an opportunity to quickly ramp up production. There are pros and cons of choosing onshore and offshore suppliers. These range from lead time, labor availability, logistics, cost, ease of collaboration, regulations to technological differences. 

5. Logistics - navigate import regulations, warehousing, and fulfillment

Figure out your supply chain details including packaging, shipping, clearing and forwarding, any import regulations involved. Will you be using a third-party warehouse and a fulfillment center, or will you do fulfillment yourself? 

6. Launch - discover the value, ramp up sales and collect feedback

This is the fun part where you get to know the true value of what you developed. This step entails synchronizing all stakeholders together for a go-no-go signal. Market research and new product campaigns can go a long way in ensuring success. Pay attention to your timing and avenues to launch. Your pre-launch checklists will include product quality control documentation, fulfillment, marketing, sales, support, feedback, and more than you can think of for now.

7. Iterate

This is the game that keeps you one step ahead of your competition. Keep innovating

Best of luck with your product roadmap.

At Cloudsyte, we offer solutions to manage bills of materials, quality control, engineering change orders, purchase order management, shipping details, supplier collaboration, analytics, and more. We have a price-friendly Launch package. Check us out at Cloudsyte.com.

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