After validating the technology, the design and the processes by which your product will be assembled, it is finally time for mass production. At this stage, you might feel like you are entering the final phase of the whole process, but if you want your product to endure and your company to grow, there are things to be done during the manufacturing phase to optimize for the next iteration of your product or technology.
The first objective when manufacturing a new product is to maintain a streamlined process from beginning to end. The whole business will run much more smoothly when things are predictable. Marketing, selling and delivering will all be so much easier. Still, suppliers can run out of parts, or new standards can appear that will test the resilience of your business model.
How many companies launch promising an exciting new product that ends up being shipped too late, at a higher cost than expected, or without all the promised bells and whistles?
You do not want to be one of them.
Manufacturing a new product is only the beginning of its life cycle. Will there be a need for additional customer support? Are updates expected or necessary afterward? Customers expect a warranty that will make it possible for them to return a defective unit and get a new, functional one at no cost.
Once products are shipping, that is when money finally starts coming in. How you reinvest that money is also something that needs to be thought out. Usually, it is time to think about version 2.0 of your product, and how it will improve on the previous generation.
Before that, however, there is some room to improve your current product. It is still possible to optimize the production chain to increase the profit margin, to find better parts or suppliers. Materials or components that end up being discarded can be recycled or reused to lower the manufacturing costs. Returned items can be disassembled and some parts can also be used again.
The next generation
Creating a new product from scratch is demanding and challenging. Creating the next generation of that product should be easier. Every new version of a product that goes to market improves a company’s chances to become a leader in that market.
How your competitors’ products perform is also something to take into account. Depending on the market you are in, products will age more or less rapidly and can become obsolete faster than you expect. Why? Are other similar products more affordable? More efficient? More up to date?
In consumer electronics, standards and protocols evolve quickly and simply upgrading a product to their latest revision can be seen as an update significant enough to justify launching a new product.
A newer version of a consumer product is usually an improvement. Sometimes, however, it can also be a simplified version of it. Or both. Smaller? Cheaper? A different color?
All options are on the table. It only depends on the direction your company wants to take once a first product has made it to the market. Because manufacturing it is not the end of the process. It is only the beginning.