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Editor's Page

Editor's Page

Speeding Product Development: Plan to Succeed

Shortening the product development cycle is without a doubt one of the most important parts of your job as a medical device manufacturer, because getting a product to market as quickly as possible can have a huge impact on the success of the product, and subsequently on your bottom line.

Delays in getting a device to market can be costly and can erode your product's life cycle and future market share. One study estimates that a six-month delay in launching a product can reduce its life-cycle profits by as much as 33% (McKinsey & Co.).

How device manufacturers can avoid this delay was the topic of a conference held during Medical Design & Manufacturing West (January 19­22, 1998) in Anaheim, CA. Bill Evans, president of Bridge Design Inc. (San Francisco), explained that concentrating on the little things is important. "Managers tend to look for the big fix," he said. "But often many small changes will bring results."

One of your first steps should be to analyze the schedule of a recently completed project. "If you find out that failure of early production samples caused delays, you may need to invest in more product validation tools such as finite element analysis or go to outside specialists," Evans explained.

Other tips include opening the communication lines between the marketing teams and the engineers, encouraging the design team to take risks, trusting engineers to fix the problems that arise, and using the right tools. "As early as possible in the product definition stage, test run and think through your CAD data flow," Evans said, "Then select CAD tools that allow this back-and-forth process."

Rapid prototyping can also take weeks, even months, off the product development cycle. "It has so much potential for improving your schedule, it can pay to invest in some in-house rapid prototyping machinery as a competitive advantage," Evans emphasized. You should also explore ways to shorten tooling time and production ramp-up by involving the manufacturing team from the beginning and by starting pilot evaluations and associated documentation early.

Clearly, the more planning you can do prior to initiating a new project, the better your chances of success.

Ursula Jones

ursula.jones@cancom.com
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