Developing a hardware product involves several different processes across a series of distinct stages. These stages ultimately become more complex and rigid the more mature the design becomes, due to the oversight needed and the number of contributors involved. This growing complexity often leads engineering teams to reassess their internal processes and seek out better tools to help manage these workflows.
One of the great challenges for hardware engineers and designers lies in getting all of their product’s component, part and assembly data into a central repository that will eventually become a Bill of Materials (BOM). While spreadsheets offer ease of use, they greatly lack the ability to identify and correct problems, track changes among team members and enforce industry standards. A more robust, centralized system, like a PLM (Product Lifecycle Management) software package is needed to better manage data.
In the previous two articles in this Building a BOM series (5 Required Fields and 7 Optional Fields) I discussed what should be in a BOM. But, it's also important to mention what should not be included.Under no circumstance should the price of a part be listed in a released BOM. I see this mistake too many times. A released BOM should contain only static data, which will be accurate at any point in the life of the BOM - from the time it was created until the next time an engineer makes a revisioned change. Pricing and lead times are variables.
In the previous article in this BOM Building series, I listed the 5 bare minimum fields required for a proper BOM (Bill of Materials). The goal of any BOM is to accurately represent the discrete parts of your product with sufficient detail to procure them - no more, no less. While only 5 fields are required to accomplish this, the addition of the following optional fields helps make your BOM more robust and efficient for a procurement team to do their job.
Now that we know how to get a visual on our data (Histogram Post), we can consider lot-to-lot variation of our parameters to see how Shifts and Drifts affect the ability of our part to meet specifications over a long production run, and some things to watch for when optimizing our manufacturing processes.
The hard and soft goods industries have seen exponential changes in the last few years. There is now a wealth of services and tools that make it much easier for someone with a product concept to begin prototyping it quickly and cheaply. Advancements in software tools, 3D printing technology, and rapid prototyping services have resulted in an overwhelming number of entrepreneurs trying their hand in product development.
Before scaling your manufacturing production, it's imperative to understand if your assembly processes are "In Control". Using histograms and specification limits, one can easily generate visual graphs to quickly identify potential issues with manufacturing processes. Learn the basics on where to begin.
A hardware product has discrete stages in its lifecycle from concept to completion, or more colloquially: from Cradle to Grave. Each of these stages has a purpose with its own set of goals and exit criteria. If not administered properly you greatly increase the risk of a less than successful product launch plagued with delays and budget overruns. In the worst case, you completely miss the market window and your chances of any success.
Saying you’re working on an MVP is all hip and cool these days, and part of the now prevalent Agile methodology. But, I posit: Do you really know what your MVP is? How do you know when you’ve reached it? This article helps you better understand when an MVP is complete and what the next step is after a successful MVP.