As manufacturers, it can feel like you are in a constant balancing act…
You need to create products to meet your customer’s needs now, and you need to create products that meet your customer’s needs in the future. At the same time, you need to position yourself as a leader in your industry.
If you focus too much on just creating what is needed now, you are reacting to problems after they happen. Once you meet your customer’s current needs – what’s next? How can you continue to show your value as a company?
This is where research and development (R&D) comes in.
Research and Development
At the most basic level, research and development involves spending focused time improving your products or processes and bringing new products to market.
Whether your company seeks to improve an existing product, get a new product to market, or test a concept – research and development enables you to test the design and functionality of products (or components such as metal stamped parts), before investing resources in full production.
Dedicating time to R&D will help you create more value for your customers in the form of new or improved products and services.
Typically, the R&D process begins with a needs analysis.
Conducting a needs analysis is vital to research and development.
You need to know the challenges of your industry now and where your industry is headed in the future. To identify key trends and establish product plans, talk to your customers and find out what they struggle with, and what can make their job easier.
Once you have identified product ideas, concepts, or plans the next step is to create and test prototypes.
Your needs analysis, if done correctly, should lead you to ideas of how to improve your products and help your customers. However, ideas are easy to have but difficult to execute. After all, everything works in theory. This is where prototyping comes in. Prototyping is the act of building, testing, and adapting a product until you find a viable solution.
Working with a trusted partner such as Integrity Manufacturing to build a prototype gives you and your customer something physical to see and touch. It also helps you test the product (or process) to identify further areas for improvement.
How many times have you planned something only for it to fail in the execution? With prototypes, there is no failure, only experimentation. You need to get a sense of how the product or process will work, and the best way to do that is testing it in a live environment with a prototype.
Think about metal stamped parts, which can take time, money, and resources to develop. If not tested beforehand, your customer’s first experience of your product may be a failure. An unsuccessful presentation can cause them to take their business elsewhere.
Every test with a prototype creates data to help drive your decisions. The more data you collect, the better decisions you can make.
The Most Important Part of R&D
The most important part of R&D is the voice of the customer. Your ideas will not provide any value if they do not solve your customer’s problems. The only way to understand their problems is to get their input in the process. Ask them about their challenges, give them products to test, and incorporate their feedback into your solutions.
A Partner You Can Trust
A woman-owned, American-made business, Integrity is a leader in the manufacturing of precision stamped parts and assemblies for a wide variety of industries. Our capabilities include producing complex, custom components requiring tight tolerances and runs of 1,000 – 500,000 pieces.
Research and development and project management services are just a few of the ways we add value for our manufacturing clients worldwide. Call us for more on how we can help.