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Developing a product? 5 mistakes to avoid

Written by Tyral

iStock 497158283 1

Like us, many engineering or manufacturing businesses have aspirations to launch their own products. After all, the equipment and infrastructure are there already, all that’s needed is the product. Simple, right?

Well, actually it’s not that simple.

Across NZ, businesses spend millions of dollars developing and launching new products each year, but the reality is failure rates are extremely high.

It’s an area, as a country, we need to get better at. The Government wants New Zealand to raise research and development (R&D) expenditure to 2% of GDP in the next 10 years. That’s why they’ve introduced an R&D tax incentive.

R&D and product development is a topic I’ve been thinking a lot about lately. After all, we supply parts for many individuals and businesses, ranging from back shed inventors right through to companies who invest heavily in R&D. Further, we’re currently going through the process of developing and launching a range of products ourselves. One thing we don’t want to do is make mistakes that could easily be avoided.

That’s why we’ve researched and compiled this list of 5 mistakes to avoid in product development.

 

#1. Not treating your project like a real project

This is one for those companies who find their own development project always takes second priority to paid work. In this situation, you need to do your research and work out your potential return on investment. If developing the product makes fiscal and strategic sense then you should find a way to give it the resource and structure it needs. If not, shelve it. Don’t just keep hoping that someday you’ll get around to it, because you probably won’t.

 

#2. Product not designed to fill a need 

Before significantly investing in a product development project you need to be sure you’re developing a product people will actually need or want. No amount of hard work can make up for pursuing the wrong idea. And the only way to determine how good your idea might be is market research. Research helps manage the risk of taking on a project as well as deriving valuable insights that could help you develop a better product. You need to find out how significant the problem or opportunity that your product addresses is, and only proceed if it’s real. Don’t make the mistake of falling in love your product. Fall in love with the solution to your market's problem.

 

#3. Product cost creeping up or scope creeping out

Once you have resourced your project appropriately and determined it’s likely market appeal, you need to keep track of it. This starts with articulating the product vision – “what we are trying to build here and why” and defining a timeframe and budget for the project. If you want to avoid scope creep and product cost escalations, decisions need to be reviewed against your key objectives.

 

#4. Keeping it a secret

Sure, you want to keep your project under wraps so you can get an edge on your competition, but not at the expense of the project’s success. As soon as you can you want to be talking about your product with potential customers, suppliers, distributors etc. Having renders, prototypes, or even sketches or a simple value proposition for the product, can help highlight potential problems or opportunities early on in a project when it’s easier and more cost effective to make changes. Securing and building important relationships (such as with suppliers and distributors) early on can also speed up the whole process.

 

#5. Thinking that the launch is the last step

When you’re developing a product it’s easy to imagine that once you’ve resolved all the issues, and developed a product to meet the needs of the market, the sales will start to roll in soon after the product is launched. If only! For your product to be successful you need to have the right sales and distribution set-up, as well as good marketing and sales support. You need a strategy and plan beyond your product launch.

 

Made any of these mistakes yourself? I know we have. We’re probably guilty of #1 and #5. But not next time! And referencing # 4 Keeping projects secret, as suppliers, we see the benefits of collaborating with our customers doing product development every day. So don’t be shy, if you’d like to discuss laser cutting and engineering solutions for your project, the sooner the better.


Profile cutting: 7 mistakes engineers commonly make

Written by Tyral

Laser cutting

For many businesses, outsourcing profile cutting work makes sense. It’s a specialised process using specialised machinery. No point investing time and money in it when you can contract the service as needed (especially to pros like FIK Laser!).

But it pays not to rush out and chose the first supplier you come across or the one offering the cheapest deals. You need to do your homework to ensure you select the best option for your business’s needs.

And it doesn’t stop there. 

If you want to get the best results from outsourced profile cutting you need to do your bit too. Here are 7 common mistakes engineers make when contracting profile cutting.

 

#1. Don’t provide dimensions on supplied drawings

If you provide scale drawings but don’t include key dimensions you can run into trouble. When the cutting machine software converts, scale errors can occur. It is always best to include dimensions to avoid any errors creeping in.

 

#2. Cut costs with materials

The quality of the material you cut will reflect in the finished product. Make sure you specify or agree on the material to be used for your job. Don’t go for the cheapest, always think fit for purpose.

 

#3. Think providing own material will be cheaper

Profile cutting businesses will often have better buying power over certain materials than what you do. Don’t assume providing your own material will be cheaper. Get a quote.

 

#4. Don’t use the right tool for the job

When it comes to profile cutting there are several tools for the job. The right choice depends on your finished product and what is important. Here are the main differences between Laser, Plasma, and Water Jet cutting.

 

Laser cutting: Uses laser beams to cut materials.

Pros:

  • Fast speed
  • Clean cutting - allows for cutting of complex shapes
  • Accurate
  • Reliable
  • Cuts many materials of varying thicknesses
  • Can cut very narrow widths
  • Cuts both metals and nonmetals

Cons:

  • Can be expensive compared to other processes
  • High power consumption
  • Hard to use on reflective metals

 

Plasma cutting: Utilizes an electrically-conductive gas to transfer energy from an electrical power source through a plasma cutting torch and into the material that is being cut.

Pros:

  • Cuts a wide variety of metals
  • Economical
  • Rapid cutting speeds

Cons:

  • Less accurate than water and laser
  • Dealing with different materials requires that you change cutting edge
  • Produces fumes in the cutting process
  • Poor edge quality on some materials

 

Waterjet cutting: Uses a high-pressure jet of water to cut a wide variety of materials.

Pros:

  • Can cut into virtually any kind of material
  • Does not overheat the material adjacent to the cut thus maintaining its form.
  • Can cut thick materials

Cons:

  • Slow cutting speeds for most metals
  • Noisy, unless when cutting is done underwater

 

#5. Skip the test cut

It’s tempting to jump right in and start cutting to save time and money. But as a precaution, it’s always a good idea to start with a test cut to ensure you get the results you want.

 

#6. Think short term

We often see people making a decision based on their current volumes and product mix. That’s fine if things are likely to stay the same, but if you have growth plans, make sure you pick a profile cutter that can adjust to your changing volumes. Talk to them about lead times, capacity, volume pricing, troubleshooting, service etc.

 

#7. Switch suppliers all the time

Shopping around for the best deal does not always get the best results. Instead look to form a long-term working relationship with your profile cutter. That way you’ll get better service and advice.

 

As a family run business, here at FIK Laser, we pride ourselves on our service and the excellent working relationships we develop with our customers. We are dedicated to delivering quality precision laser cut profiles and parts and can cut almost any material, from one-offs to mass production.

Talk to us today about how we can help you.