Introducing a brand new product to the market can be a daunting task. It involves careful planning and collaboration across different teams as well as continued customer feedback and iteration. Having a well-defined new product introduction (NPI) process can ensure you get the right stakeholders involved early to improve collaboration and time to market.

In this post, we’ll explore the most important steps to follow when introducing a new product. The article also covers how to overcome some of the common challenges in the NPI process.

Duro’s cloud-native Product Lifecycle Management platform empowers engineers to get to production at the lowest cost and highest efficiency. Schedule a demo to see how Duro can help your team.

What is a new product introduction (NPI)?

New product introduction is a multi-step strategy that helps you take a new product from an idea to market. It involves determining the feasibility of a new product as well as planning all the stages, from development and prototyping to manufacturing and commercialization. It’s a fairly complicated process, but it’s essential to make sure you bring a new product to market in the most optimal way.

Without a solid new product introduction process in place you can lose market share or fail to get your product concept off the ground.

Who is involved in a new product introduction?

Teamwork is essential for your new product introduction process. Stakeholders from different departments need to work together so that you can deliver a high-quality product that addresses a customer need while also being feasible to develop and manufacture. Consider including the following representatives:

  • A Project Manager who will determine timelines and resources and ensure the project stays on track.
  • A Product Manager who will own the product roadmap, product strategy as well as assess market viability through customer development and discovery.
  • Sales and Finance representatives who can help determine a product pricing strategy.
  • Engineering Leads who will be responsible for iterating the design of the product and making sure it meets requirements.
  • A VP of Engineering or Manufacturing Operations Manager who will have the authority and clearance to approve an important step of the process and help the project move forward smoothly.
  • Contract Manufacturers to determine their availability and timelines for manufacturing the final product.
  • Customer Success Managers who can help get the product in front of existing customers for feedback.

6 steps in the new product introduction process

A typical new product introduction process has six important steps. However, it is important to note before we go through the different steps that not all organizations will have the same NPI process. There may be unique factors that need to be addressed based on the type of project, allotted budget, proposed timeline, long-term and short-term business objectives, and the available resources. These steps should act as a guide for you to adapt to your specific business.

1) Ideation and product definition

Every new product starts with an idea. The first step of the new product introduction process is to take an idea with potential and create a team that can develop the idea. This team is responsible for identifying the resources needed for the product concept and sharing thoughts about its definition, uses, and purpose.

This is also the stage for defining team roles, project development costs, and conducting customer discovery interviews. It’s important to get feedback from customers early and often to make sure the product will deliver value. Once these are in place, you can move forward.

2) Feasibility determination

The next step is determining the project’s feasibility: What does the process flow diagram for the new product look like? What will each stage of development look like? This stage normally has the most pitfalls, so a thorough evaluation is critical.

During this stage you also need to assess the design concept’s manufacturability through a feasibility study. The NPI team can use the results to determine whether they should move forward with the design.

This is where adhering to Design for Excellence (DFX) Practices — like Design for Cost (DFC), Design for Manufacturing (DFM), and Design for Quality (DFQ) — can help you reduce the occurrence of issues later in the process. If the product is deemed feasible, you can build a prototype.

3) Development and prototyping

The next step is developing and prototyping the product. The Engineering team will typically create a working prototype of the product design so that you can test it with beta users and understand how to adapt the product.

You can also use this step to begin gathering supply chain resources that you will need for the product by reviewing material forecasting and shipment times. After you perform a gate review and the team has evaluated the details of the manufacturing plan, you’re ready for the next step.

4) Pre-production and validation

You’ve determined that your product can be built, shown it to some early customers to test demand, and created a plan for how the product will be manufactured and distributed.

Next is pre-production and validation. This is when you will call for an engineering and design freeze to prepare the different tools, molds, and machines that your teams will need to manufacture the product. You’ll need to order the raw materials and other material components needed for the production process, then run a validation test to make sure that it goes smoothly before you scale up your production.

5) Manufacturing

The next step is the actual manufacturing of the product. This is where Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software or Manufacturing Execution Systems (MES) can be helpful to order parts, manage workflows and resources. You are now running a production line and introducing the new product to the market. During this process, you’ll also want to make sure you perform quality control testing during each production run or batch. This will help you avoid critical errors in manufacturing and production. After you’ve run the manufacturing process and introduced the product to the market, you can start to evaluate your process.

6) Evaluating results

Continuous improvement is an important part of any production. After 30 to 60 days, you can evaluate how well the NPI process went and if any steps stalled the product launch or were obfuscated due to confusion or miscommunication. This can set you up for success and make sure that your teams can prepare more effectively for the next round of production.

Challenges in the NPI process

Because the NPI process is so complicated and requires many different stakeholders, there are challenges to overcome. Below, we’ll highlight some common NPI challenges and provide guidance for overcoming them.

Organizational challenges

Launching a new product is a big undertaking. You need to have all of your departments working together. Most new product launches will touch every department in your organization, from sales to accounting to engineering and beyond. For every product launch, the following things typically need to be coordinated and ready at the same time:

  • Marketing assets, including collateral, product content, website copy, and social media presence
  • Market-facing sales materials that accurately reflects pricing and delivery
  • Sales training for direct and indirect sales
  • Customer support training
  • Product regulatory approval
  • Final packaged product in stock with inventory tracking
  • All the variant options that customers may choose from after launch

It’s important to remember that departments are semi-independent units, with their own schedules, priorities, resources, and budgets. So as you might imagine, it can be complicated to coordinate across marketing, sales, procurement, engineering and customer support to be ready for a single launch date.

When you use product lifecycle management (PLM) software, you can bridge organizational gaps earlier in the process and ensure accuracy of the design. The more transparency there is regarding the new product launch — from requirements to customer feedback — the easier it is to align departments regarding their individual responsibilities, expectations, and timelines.

Communication challenges

During a new product introduction, both internal and external communication challenges need to be addressed.

Internal communication refers to communication between cross-functional teams within the organization. For example, the procurement, sales, and engineering teams might have challenges in setting achievable schedules or making sure that manufacturing team members have access to design decisions that may have a major impact on the manufacturing process, like a Design for Manufacturing study.

When teams are distributed across locations and don’t have access to a single source of truth about the product, it’s hard to make sure everyone is on the same page about the stage of development or when to make design iterations.

A product lifecycle management platform, like Duro, can be a big help in bringing team members together. Duro’s cloud-native PLM helps ensure that everyone knows which is the latest design revision and when a new product is ready to move to the next stage of the production process. Schedule a demo to see how Duro can help streamline your design and revision processes.

External communication challenges refer to the difficulties in communicating between the organization and outside suppliers and vendors. This might include parts suppliers, contract manufacturers or distributors and retailers. Challenges can occur here for a variety of reasons, such as when design data or requirements are miscommunicated. A PLM platform can help by ensuring external suppliers and manufacturers are all working from the most recent and approved designs.

Iteration challenges

Difficulties can arise when disparate teams are out of sync. For example, suppose the mechanical engineering team and an electrical engineering team aren’t working together or communicating well during the design development phase. In that case, they might not have the same goals or ideas about how to address issues. They might also be working from different sets of requirements, which can further complicate the product launch process.

A tool like Duro that keeps everyone on the same page can eliminate these misalignments and reduce friction between teams.

Legal and compliance challenges

There are often different sets of regulations by country or industry, which if not followed could put your business at risk of non-compliance. Obtaining certifications and establishing compliance is key for avoiding delays and ensuring that the product launch goes smoothly. For example, earning Federal Communications Channel (FCC) and Conformité Européenne (CE) certifications for consumer electronics, or establishing International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) compliance for aerospace and defense companies.

Benefits of the new product introduction process

There are many benefits of having a predefined NPI process and clearly defined roles prior to getting started, including:

Fast time to market

Speed to market is an important factor of a new product launch. You want to make sure you claim the market space before competitors. Avoiding slowdowns and delays in your go-to-market approach is key to success. A well-defined new product introduction process ensures that there are no major delays in the process before getting the new product out to the market.

Lower costs

Delays and wasted materials can significantly add to your operational costs. A well-organized NPI process can help you avoid wasting time on unnecessary prototypes and constant redesigns. In addition, having a PLM platform, like Duro, in place to help track and monitor communication between teams can also help reduce the waste and high costs that can occur without a centralized BOM.

Enhanced product quality

Every company wants to produce high-quality products, but a sloppy new product introduction process can lead to design flaws and product quality issues. When multiple team members are looking at a product, but they aren’t communicating well, they can miss things or make mistakes that go unnoticed until it’s too late, leading to quality issues that are difficult and costly to correct once a product is in market.

Increased manufacturing efficiency

Your NPI process can help you avoid manufacturing inefficiencies and create a smoother product development and design process. A PLM software tool may also help increase collaborative product development and make the manufacturing process easier to scale and grow.

Streamlining the NPI process with product lifecycle management (PLM) software

Product lifecycle management software makes it much easier to optimize a new product launch process and create a stronger strategy for moving forward with product development.

Duro makes it easier for businesses to launch new products and build a bridge between design engineers, procurement and operations teams earlier in the process. Engineers can sync data from computer-aided design (CAD) tools and begin constructing complete Bills of Materials (BOMs) so that preparations for prototyping and, eventually, mass manufacturing can start sooner.

Duro also provides transparency to any user with access to its PLM to see a product’s status, including relevant documentation and supplier-sourced content. This can reduce miscommunication and operational inefficiencies across teams that often plague the new product launch process.

Optimize new product introductions with Duro

To learn more about how Duro can help you, schedule a demo and see for yourself how Duro is changing the product development and manufacturing landscape for the better.