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.
As I talked about in Part 1 of this series, there are many steps required to get a product ready for volume manufacturing. Just because you may have a functionally working prototype, it doesn’t mean your implementation can be manufactured effectively, or even at all. Don't be surprised if someone tells you it will take 6 to 12 months to get your functional prototype ready for mass production! In this article I will outline some valuable DFX principles that will help you reduce that time to get a product ready for production and reach your goal of a high First Pass Yields (FPY) greater than 97%.
I noticed the term “Startup” gets thrown around too loosely these days. It’s hip to be working for a startup company, especially in tech. Consequently, this use of the word has been overloaded to encapsulate as many companies as possible so they all can feel included in this “cool kids club". But what is a startup really? What defines it? And when is it time to move from being a startup to the adult table?
I had the honor of presenting to a sold out audience on a topic that is important to me: DFx for Electrical Engineering. In my talk I started by outlining the various stages of a product’s lifecycle. But, the focus of the presentation was on the middle phase, or the “meat” of product development – crossing the chasm from prototype to full production.
The Agile development principles where designed for software development, and really improved the way teams develop and deliver software products more efficiently. Meanwhile, the hardware development industry lagged behind on some of these efficiency improvements. A large contribution to this lag is the inherent costs and manual labor associated with hardware testing (firmware, mechanical and electrical).
Having traditionally worked for startups, time and money have always been a scarce commodity, so it’s been imperative to use CNC Machines as effectively as possible. Leveraging CNC machining services can significantly mitigate the risk for mistakes and delays in a product launch due to their high quality and inexpensive prototyping capabilities.
Hardware product development has two unique types of testing – each with their own distinct purpose. Much like software development, hardware requires tests to validate features work as specified, during the development phases. But only hardware products require testing of each individual manufactured unit during the production phases.
t's important to find a Chinese Manufacturer that is the right match for your product market and forecasted volume. Just about any CM can do PCB Assembly, Box build, and testing, but you need to find a manufacturer that has worked with products similar to yours. This will go a long way in terms of efficiency and costs when bringing up the new product line and for on going support.