After you have investigated the design and marketing aspects of the new project, it is time to examine if new manufacturing technology or machinery will be required to bring this technology to market. Do you have the necessary shop capacity? Will you be manufacturing in U.S. or in metric dimensions and tolerances? Most of the world’s developing markets don’t want to deal with U.S.-dimensioned parts. Do you have the necessary in-house expertise for key elements? Will some of the technology be outsourced? If so, identify the key subs and plan on when to bring them into the program.
Does it still make sense? OK, but this is just the beginning!
Now, lay out the entire development schedule with key objectives and milestones clearly defined. These milestones must also contain times when key go/no-go decisions will be made. Leave room in the schedule for the expected delays that will most assuredly occur. Original prototype manufacturing techniques will most likely not be the same as will be required for the final design. But the prototype tests will determine if the objectives can be met before an additional investment will be made in manufacturing technology. Be sure to set up tests for determining if new material or control technology can be relied upon for the performances required of it.
Once your new product development is well under way and all your early milestones have been successfully reached, this is a good time to apprise your selected customers about your progress. If your plans include patents, be sure to have any people outside your company who are given access to the technology sign non-disclosure agreements to protect your rights. Use their feedback to calibrate your progress.
This will also be the time where the manufacturing department will begin to evaluate how this product will be integrated into the plant's operation. Sometimes changes will have to be made to well-accepted procedures that will require new thinking in the shop. Maybe new safety procedures, higher tolerances or other new technologies will be met with resistance. “We don’t do things that way here” will sometimes be heard. At this time, management must find the key shop leaders who can champion the required changes and bring along the rest of the shop.