Businesses usually follow a structured NPD process to ensure the products they manufacture meet consumer needs and perform well in the market.
The most important stages of this process are its design and development phases where the product comes into shape. Between those, is the engineering phase where product developers gather technical details about the product and optimize it to provide maximum value.
Getting the engineering product development process right is crucial for successfully implementing NPD for a business.
In this article, we’ll go over what engineering product development is and the three main stages of the engineering product development process.
What is Engineering Product Development?
Engineering product development is part of the product development process in which mechanical engineers design and manufacture the product. They are responsible for making sure the product operates as intended by optimizing its functionality; this makes these engineers a crucial part of the product development process.
A product development engineer contributes to the new product development process by:
- Making design concepts for the product
- Sourcing and analyzing needed materials
- Creating prototypes for testing and gathering feedback
- Reviewing feedback and adjusting the product to end up with a finished piece
3 Stages of the Engineering Product Development Process
Performing Market Research
Market research and competitive analysis are essential for generating ideas and identifying market gaps. Product engineers conduct research and gather feedback to optimize their products for customer needs.
This can be done in the following ways:
- Brainstorming sessions with other team members
- Conducting end-user surveys
- Analyzing competitor products
- Identifying market and consumer trends
Once the initial research is done, product development engineers move on to the next stage to turn product ideas into visual representations.
Creating the Design Concepts
After getting a good idea of what the finished piece should look and operate like, product engineers work closely with product designers to create design concepts for the product. By relying on client feedback, product designers and engineers create multiple design concepts using various techniques including:
- Concept sketches
- 3D models
- Product demos
These concepts are then presented to stakeholders who review and critique them until they match the user specifications and align with business goals.
Assessing for Regulatory Compliance
Your product needs to meet legal, safety, and regulatory requirements to ensure the end product is safe to make and use and doesn’t have negative effects on the environment. Product compliance may be a complex process to tackle as different markets have different regulatory standards.
Product compliance may be difficult to deal with but their are serious risks involved:
- Heavy fines
- Sealed production
- POS restrictions
Product compliance is done early to reduce costly changes at the end of the product development lifecycle.
- Product Engineering
Optimizing the Design
In the engineering phase, design engineers get heavily involved in product development by introducing engineering solutions to optimize product design. This includes designing for manufacturability (DFM) and collecting CAD data which gives technical details of the product.
Design optimization is a vital part of the engineering product development process as it helps present low-cost, high-performance solutions. This is done by using CAD software to identify optimization opportunities before proceeding to develop the product.
After optimizing the cost and functionality of the product design, a product development engineer sources cost-effective material to manufacture the product. This process typically depends on the expertise and knowledge of the product development engineer who uses his understanding to find the optimal materials for creating the product prototype.
Mechanical & Reverse Engineering
Mechanical engineers skilled in product engineering may use different techniques to integrate design, business knowledge, and engineering in the product development process. One such technique is to reverse engineer the product by working backwards from the finished piece to see exactly how it helps solve customers problems and achieve business goals.
Before moving on to the development stage, mechanical engineers also have to ensure that they are meeting regulatory standards and certifications by maintaining quality control protocols.
Preparing a Proof of Concept
A proof of concept (PoC) is an initial test of the product concept to validate a product idea before starting extensive development. This PoC is usually a simple prototype to showcase how the product functions rather than an exact representation of the look and feel of the finished product.
A PoC doesn’t have to be perfect, but it should accurately portray how the product will work. In product engineering, a PoC can be as simple as a 3D render of the finished product that points out some of its features and specifications. It can also be used for marketing purposes to increase brand awareness and create some presence in the market by running ads featuring the 3D model.
Creating the Prototype
The product engineering stage sets up the product development stage, which initializes production to create a physical representation of the product. By using production-ready CAD data, product engineers create a prototype which is a replica of the final product for testing purposes.
After creating and launching the prototype into the market, product engineers assess the customer response to validate a product idea. This process involves identifying any technical issues and problems in the product to correct them before the official launch.
Reviewing End-User Feedback
Product engineers gather user feedback from the prototype testing to further enhance the product and assess problems, challenges, and technical errors to optimize the product. This stage can also lead to new features to add to the product or use in future products.
After reviewing and analyzing customer feedback, product engineers adjust the product to customer specifications. This end product is then moved to manufacturing where it is mass-produced to officially launch in the market.
- Engineering product development is the process of designing and manufacturing the product undertaken by mechanical engineers.
- There are three main stages of the product engineering process: Design, Product Engineering, and Development.
- Product development may differ depending on the industry a business is operating in because mechanical engineers may specialize in many different fields including industrial design, mechanical design, and vehicle engineering. It’s best to alter the above production process according to your business needs and goals.