Frequently Asked Questions
Proof of Concept, Prototyping and Minimum Viable Product – how important are they?
Can we just say you are not the first person to be in this position, and will certainly not be the last! Don’t worry, you are not alone! Let me explain and at least help get you out of the starting gate…
Before you get all excited and waste what could be a fair amount of money, you need to take all emotion away, get down to basics and determine whether the product you have in mind is actually doable. Is it feasible? Is it worth taking it forward? What you need is a Proof of Concept (POC).
Proof of concept (POC)
“A POC is typically to verify that a concept or theory can be achieved in development.” The sole purpose is to prove that the principle concept is viable.
At this point, a useful thing to do is to create a comprehensive list of every last feature you’d like to see your product have. Once you have your list, go through each one and tick off what you’ve got to have and which ones can wait. This is then where Plunkett Associates come in! The sooner we can be involved in the design process, the better. This can save you time and major financial headaches later down the track. We may even have some useful ideas that you hadn’t considered!
So you’ve now established that your part is worth making. Hopefully you’ve got in touch and between us we’ve got a design that you’re happy with in terms of it’s function and cosmetics, and we’re happy that the design can be made, both in low volumes and down the track in higher production quantities, if that is what will be required.
Everyone’s happy and it’s time now to think about prototyping! And the reason for this? Well while the Proof of Concept shows that the product can be done, a prototype shows how it will be done…
Prototyping is a really valuable exercise to allow you to create a visualization of your product. The main purpose of prototyping is to find any errors in the design, whether that be cosmetic or functional. This provides the opportunity to adapt, refine and change the design whilst the costs are relatively minimal. It’s far less expensive to rectify problems in the beginning stages of the project lifecycle, than at the end.
“Form and fit” specifically, is about validating the CAD data. It is about building the first set of prototypes that are dimensionally correct to permit the assembly of both mechanical and electrical components.
Depending on the project these prototypes also allow for assembly checks, in other words, can the parts be assembled and disassembled if required, and is there sufficient access to mounting screws both on assembly and during routine maintenance, for example?
These prototypes do not have to fulfil any mechanical requirements and process selection is made on the grounds of accuracy.
At the other end of the spectrum, it is often essential to have an exhibition model in order to assess market response to the new design. Whilst the level of functionality varies substantially, the priority is that visually, it is the ultimate cosmetic representation of the new design.
The beauty of having a physical part in your hands is that it often promotes discussion and helps trigger new ideas. This all helps confirmation of which direction to take going forward regarding development. Be warned however, the process and material options available are phenomenal, so making sure the design is process specific is critical.
Your prototype can make a huge difference when getting your product to market or to the next stage of production. The prototyping phase is one you want to get the most out of. The good news is many of the more traditional processes have evolved, with a little help from modern technology, and are now more able to do short production runs and still be cost effective. As a result there is a lot to consider when deciding the best option for your prototypes.
But finally, you have a design that works! It may not include every requirement (remember your list at the beginning) but it is a starting point and one that you know works and is ready to face a wider audience.
This is known as a Minimum Viable Product!
Minimum Viable Product (MVP)
An MVP is a minimal form of your complete product with only a basic set of features, released in order to test a new business idea and gauge people’s reactions. It has to be simple.
While a prototype rectifies problems during the beginning stages of development, an MVP is useful to get your audience’s feedback first, before releasing a full-fledged product. MVPs can help you avoid failures and large financial losses.
Prototyping allowed you to fix initial functional problems, however be warned, once your MVP is out in the marketplace, you may find you discover more problems that will need to be solved as a result of widespread use and consumer feedback.
Remember not to treat problems as failures but as positive feedback. Each time your product is refined, is a step closer to a better end result.
All we can say is new product development is a journey with many things to consider along the way. Do it properly and it will save you time, energy and money…so take a deep breath, dive in, we’re here if you need. Enjoy it - and let’s get you started!
Plunkett Associates can support your development project whichever stage in the process you are at. We are a team of professional individuals who know what you’re going through and are able to help, so get the ball rolling and pick up the phone or drop us an email - we’ll be happy to hear from you.
Read more expert articles in our FAQ section where we discuss topics on materials, methods and products.
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