The move to producing smart products has been gaining traction in the last few years. Consumers want more out of the products they buy: more flexibility and adaptability, connected and even more portability and mobility. On top of the electrical, mechanical and electronics components that you would find in traditional products, smart products are run by software that also gives rise to more innovation and features that were not possible before.
If the consumer market is opting for a refrigerator that sends you a SMS of the things you need to buy at the grocery or a car that drives itself, then how are manufacturers affected by it?
Businesses making smart products know that these stuffs are also more complex to design and create than their more traditional counterparts. What this means is that you would need the services of more experts and more professionals in order to bring your products to market. You also need to synchronize the varied design lifecycles involved in the manufacturing process.
Other challenges include a longer time to market, quality issues, redesign and rework, more costs when it comes to product development, and problems with software development. All of these carry a negative impact on the businesses, especially your profitability. If you are behind schedule and fail to deliver your smart product on time, then it might mean lower sales and lower profits for you.
And here’s the thing, complexity will only continue to increase. Not only are consumers opting for smart products, they need something new or something better over time. In the future, they will no longer want a refrigerator that just lists down its content and tells you what to buy, they will want one that does that AND suggest dishes that you could cook with all the ingredients you have in the refrigerator.
So your manufacturing processes would constantly become even more complex.
The good news is that you can take charge of your mechatronic product development by using better processes and using technology to provide integration, traceability and visibility platforms.
How do you do this? Here are some steps.
- Set the goal and make sure that everybody is aware of what these goals are so that they all work towards it. To be effective in setting goals, you should consider what are needed to achieve that goal. To illustrate, imagine that you are working on a new smartphone, do you know what your customers are expecting it to have and offer? In this case your goal would be to create a smartphone that is useful to your customers without cramming in too many features that your customers would not use.
Now here’s the challenge: product requirements from different domains often have different systems and formats and this leads to fragmented information. This in turn leads to overlooked requirements or over designed products.
What you need is a way to consolidate your requirements that are drilled down to actionable details. These requirements need to be version-controlled so that it could go through the entire product life-cycle, become guidelines for your product’s design and used for product validation. You can also save time if you can keep this centralized document visible so that you could also update it in the future.
- Working with your requirements, you need to come up with a conceptual design. Getting the conceptual design right would help you avoid expensive reworks and redesigns when you find a major flaw along the way.What you need to do is systems modeling and find a way to simulate systems behavior to help your design engineers come up with optimized concept products.
- Validate your product often. Smart products are quite complex so you have different factors that you need to analyze. When you can simulate the system’s behavior, you can easily validate your product to show that you have made the right decision when it comes to design. It also helps your designers to analyze, interpret and report results.
- Design by discipline. If you have laid all of your products’ requirements, you can easily have different parts of the product designed simultaneously. The challenge at this stage is that different disciplines usually mean different tools and different design lifecycles. However, parallel design efforts can help you cut the time to market.What you need to do is make sure that every member of your team knows what the others are doing through collaboration and communication.
- Revise when necessary. Always address errors and bugs in a timely manner, so you might want to manage these changes as well. The thing with changes is that a change in one component would mean that designs for the others would also change. As such it is imperative that everybody working on the design of your product knows all of these changes.
In all of these steps, a mechatronics collaboration platform can help you do what needs to be done to make your smart products even more competitive.
If you want to know more on how to master the development of your smart products, advance your business processes and systems maturity, and improve your products quality and time-to-market, download the Tech-Clarity white paper here.