Designing for Commercialization


Designing a product for production and sale is more than developing a CAD model and a working prototype—it needs to be able to be sourced, manufactured, meet both cost and performance objectives, be reliable, pass regulatory standards (as applicable), be serviceable (if applicable). In order to achieve the fastest and most efficient path to market, it’s important to take a holistic approach in product development with these elements in mind—designing for commercialization.

We’re defining Designing for Commercialization as a design that incorporates the following key elements:

1. Requirements and specs:

A clear set of performance requirements and specifications is critical to any product development. These should be realistic and not include too much “pad”, as engineering will use these as targets for the design. It is likely that there will be tradeoffs needed between things such as cost and performance, cost and size/weight, and so on. Understanding what are “nice to have’s” vs. “must-haves” is key.

In addition to features, functionality, user-interface, key performance specifications, these requirements also include things such as performance under a range of operating conditions (environmental, stress, etc.), expectations for serviceability, expected reliability, and so on.

2. Manufacturability

To be commercialized, any design must be manufacturable and meet the requirements for performance, cost, and other critical criteria. It’s also important to design for ease of assembly (DFA) so as to minimize the time/labor involved in assembling the product.

For commercialization to be successful, designing for manufacturability and assembly goes beyond running tolerance analysis or estimating assembly time. It also means designing the product so that critical components can be sourced (perhaps with multiple sources) and meet cost/volume requirements.

3. Designing with regulatory approvals in mind

Depending on the industry, there are a myriad of regulatory approvals that the design must pass in order to be sold – and those approvals may vary depending on the country in which the product will be sold. Identifying and understanding the scope of approvals needed, and ensuring your design will meet those approvals during the design process will reduce the need for design rework/spins in order to meet those regulations.

4. Serviceability

Serviceability is often overlooked or added on as a requirement late in the design process, yet is also an important element of commercialization. Years ago an auto manufacturer developed a high performance car that needed to have the engine removed in order to replace the spark plugs – clearly serviceability was not in the requirements!

As the value of the product increases, so does the need for a design that is service-friendly. Even if your business model requires the product to be returned to you for repair, having a serviceable product will reduce your service costs.

A more serviceable product is also important for manufacturing – any manufacturing process will yield some percentage of products that do not work. If the value of the product is high enough, you’ll want to fix/rework those failed products. Having a more serviceable product means rework time/costs will be reduced.

5. Safety/Reliability/Product Maintenance

Designing for a clearly defined safety and reliability targets are also part of the overall commercialization process. This includes an understanding of likely failure modes, acceptable failure rates/modes – all in the context of any applicable regulatory requirements. For example, if a component or subsystem fails, are there any safety systems that need to be built in to prevent a potentially hazardous condition occur?

Along with this, will there be any ongoing maintenance requirements, and if so, who will perform these tasks, how will they be done, and at what frequency? Do the systems that need to be maintained require easy access? Special tools? All of the above may have significant impacts on the design.

Successful commercialization of a product involves a coordinated approach that involves all of the above elements. Next time we’ll look in more detail on how we commercialize products for our customers.


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