From an Idea to a Reality: A Primer on Electronic Product Development

Electronic product development is an involved process for various companies. Make sure to cover these five essential areas to bring your idea to reality.

You’re convinced the next great idea is nestled in your brain. You’ve planned it all out in your head about how your latest product will astound your industry compatriots, lead to further equitable digital transformation, and change the world for the better. But now it’s time to extract the concept from dreams and scribbles on cocktail napkins and embark upon the electronic product development process.

There are dozens of pitfalls at every step of the process. It’s imperative that companies shore up their teams and protocols in these key five areas, so they can hurdle common obstacles and continue to bring their electronic product design to fruition.  

1. Customer and Market Research

Before you get your heart set on your grand idea and embark upon the design or production of an electronic device, make sure that there’s a customer and market need for something like it. Also, search extensively to identify any new product or hardware so you don’t accidentally copy something that already exists. This isn’t to say that your dreams aren’t clever. It’s just that another professional in your field has likely experienced similar inefficiencies and thought of a new hardware design that would make their job easier.

There can be an incredible risk when you embark upon conceptualizing, prototyping, and manufacturing a new hardware product. To reduce risk, slow down. You may be anxious to release a product before your competitors and start making a profit immediately; however, the more you rush and the more corners you cut, the riskier your endeavor becomes. Throughout the product development process, gauge customer and market interest and ensure that your final hardware is cost-effective to produce and maintain.

2. Early, Frequent and Efficient Communication

To some, communication may seem like a soft skill of lesser importance than the ultra-technical mechanical engineering or circuit board at hand; however, it could be a project-ending oversight to discount effective communication. Every product development endeavor requires the efforts of various teams and brilliant minds. To successfully realize a hardware product, every team member must have a clear mission to work toward.

Talent is a crucial resource in product development. Consistent communication allows project leaders to check for talent gaps and promote knowledgeable leaders to take advantage of their advanced skillsets. Keeping tabs on teams through frequent, yet efficient check-ins also let you know when teams are overwhelmed. This can help leaders determine if they should outsource certain stages in product development to an outside expert. Outsourcing doesn’t mean that your internal team is insufficient. Outsourcing means you have an accurate handle on their capabilities (thanks to efficient communication!) and realize where you can cut down on expensive, time-consuming, and labor-intensive tasks.

3. Sound Software Bones

Just about any straightforward device you can think of now includes some sort of embedded software. Analog electronics are giving way to connected counterparts. Thus, even if your team is engineering electronic hardware, be prepared to digitize at least some part of it.  

During the planning and especially at the prototype phase, ensure that software is given the same amount of attention as the hardware.

4. Have a Plan That’s Solid, Yet Flexible

It sounds contradictory, but a concrete plan that allows for bending is key to staying on track yet evolving as needed. For example, a road map of your goal is a must before beginning electronic product development, as it will guide your current and future moves; however, if employees regularly deviate from the plan, an unforeseen flaw must be addressed.  

A plan also extends to how team members complete work. Ideally, to have a reproducible and widely distributed product, you must have a development process that’s repeatable and sustainable. If your electronics design or engineering teams consistently deviate from a plan, it must mean that the order of operations is inefficient, cumbersome, or otherwise impedes their flow of work. Instead of forcing teams to remain glued to a plan, flex to boost efficiency and eventually speed up production.

5. Automate as Much as Possible

Finally, employ automation where possible to streamline and safely speed up the product development timeline. Excel, for example, is an incredibly manual task. Automation excels at data entry, so if you’re still using Excel and an admin to manage your lengthy BOMs, consider migrating to a technologically smarter database. For example, the electronic components e-commerce marketplace, Sourcengine, allows teams to upload BOMs of thousands of parts and order parts from 3,500+ vetted electronic component suppliers, eliminating the need for cumbersome spreadsheets.

Remember that automation doesn’t replace humans. AI, ML, and automated tasks enhance human speed and accuracy and leave more time for humans to focus on creative value-add tasks, innovation, and perfecting the final product.

There’s a Partner for That

Embarking upon electronic product development is an involved process. Enlist the expertise of a hardware development consultant to guide your team over obstacles from idea conception to electronic design and hardware development services, rapid prototyping, and manufacturing. Surcle can be your partner. A division of Sourceability, Surcle has access to a vetted global distribution network of trusted manufacturers, engineers, and designers. These professionals can secure the parts you need to ensure that your final product is of the utmost quality.

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