Product Design Ideas

These product design ideas have a great influence on its development cost and time, its eventual production cost and the performance and flexibility of the product. As in most engineering choices, there is a trade off involved between these objectives. In real life, a product design rarely aims for only one aim of these objectives exclusively.

Ideas for Low Development Cost

Reusing existing proven design blocks greatly reduces the design cost. These preexisting designs can either be from previous designs done inhouse or for non strategic parts of the design can be sourced from an outside vendor.

A great amount of development time is spent in customizing the user interface of the product. We have found it best to separate the user interface from the rest of the product making it easy and cheap to change. Touch screen devices are a great help in this regard.

For software products, the ability of the user to be able to control key reports and user interface elements is a big help. We try to give as much capability as possible to the user through configuration files and the ability for the user to script our software products.

Product Design Ideas for Low Production Cost

A high degree of integration that minimizes costly interfaces and parts is necessary.

This is true in all design areas. For example, PC motherboards now have graphics processors and networking right on the motherboards. Modern CPUs have integrated the math coprocessor right on the chip. In software, tighter integration leads to smaller memory footprint which leads to lower production cost.

Design for manufacturing is very important. Process steps that are easy while doing development do not necessarily lead to the lowest production costs. It is important to customize the product for the exact manufacturing process that will be used. Even little details can make a big difference in the final manufacturing cost.

It is important to involve the manufacturing people in the development process as soon as it is sure that the product will be manufactured in quantity. Also having the same manufacturing process for multiple products is important as the product designers will know the parameters to optimize for.

Usage of common, standardized parts in between different products lead to volume buying and lower inventories. It also leads to faster development time as the part is known and often available from the last design's surplus bin :-)

Product design ideas for fast development time

We have already covered many of the key ideas for fast product development time - reuse existing design block, use standardized parts and use a manufacturing process that is well known.

The common theme running through these is to use well known, existing processes. This is sort of like designing a product through well known lego blocks.

A corollary for this is that products for which key technology is to be developed do NOT lend themselves to fast development times. It is best to identify such technology early on in the design process and minimize its impact. Maybe its use is not really necessary or it can be bought from an outside vendor. If nothing else, the interface to this block should be well defined so that the rest of the development can proceed independent of the technology which is being developed in parallel.

Product Design Ideas for Flexible Products

Flexible products are those that can be used for multiple applications or can be quickly adapted for such uses.

Excess capacity is important for flexible products. For example, a controller board with excess memory and excess processing capacity can have additional control features added to its software.

Companies often introduce products with excess capacity early in product lifecycle when its features are not completely known and later optimize the product for production cost by taking away the excess capacity.

Ideas for High Performance Products

The key idea here is to pick the parameters that the product must be optimized for and design everything else so that the design is optimized around it.

You CANNOT pick everything to be high performance. That defeats the whole purpose of high performance design. Even the ancients realized this :-). Remember Aesop's Fable about the man who tried to please everybody and ended up pleasing nobody. A Mercedes Benz sedan, no matter how well designed, is never going to beat a Formula 1 car in a car race.

High performance may require a high degree of integration to ensure that parts requiring high performance get the inputs they need to function at maximum possible performance.

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