Deciding on what products and features to offer to the market requires an understanding of your business and customer needs. At times, you need to strike a balance between multiple factors to come up with a product that best meets those needs. However, the factors requiring consideration are often competing with each other.
To meet your customers' demands as a discrete manufacturer, you need to create a product line with various products and options with many possible configurations. Designing your product line for your customers in a way that is not confusing and in the same time meets their personalization needs can be a challenge. Visualizing entire product lines is a way to ensure it is serving the market needs and is easy to understand from a customer's perspective. It is also an essential tool to strategically communicate what is being built and how it serves the market, enabling everyone inside the organization to stay aligned and informed.
There has been a recent change in the market, and you need to analyze your product line and plan a change to the current features and products immediately to address the market in 3 months.
Does this sound familiar? You're deep into a new product development process and heads down working on executing the product plan. Suddenly, you realize discrepancies in the products and feature definitions, the timelines to launch them, and their configurations. A myriad of spreadsheets, text documents, and presentation files stored in different places make it confusing to navigate as you are not sure what the latest approved decisions and definitions are. This means that now is the time to stop what you're doing and jump into the 'data scramble' and send a deluge of emails to product planning and product management teams to get the answers you need with a definitive picture of the product line.
Products are becoming more and more complicated—and manufacturers are having a harder time keeping up. 92% of manufacturers have reported that their products have become more complex over the last half-decade. This complexity isn’t limited to incorporating the software and circuitry that comprise the IoT—even purely mechanical designs have become more intricate.
Most hard goods manufacturers are embracing the digital transformation by focusing on their factory floor operations. They are spending millions and, on occasion, billions of dollars on upgrading equipment and streamlining processes. Often though, very little attention is given to the front-end of manufacturing. Why do manufacturers fail to extend their digital transformation to the early product definition, planning, and design stage?
Within the manufacturing world, product planning teams are chartered to define new products to meet customer and market needs. These products are often made up of countless individual feature sets, packages, and options, adding to the complexity of products. There is a strong need for decision analytics to help inform decisions, reduce complexity, and increase speed to market.
One of the biggest challenges product planners and manufacturers face is hitting the production schedule. You have to be careful that you don’t rush product launch and end up with a misaligned product, or miss fulfilling customer needs or market opportunities. The goal is to optimize around production and equipment efficiencies. And although changes are inevitable during production, having the tools to quickly react and resolve them is critical.
Product Planners have to be obsessed with the development of their products.
What do consumers really need? What features are essential? What will resonate with the market?
It can be a little too easy to aggressively pursue product development in a way that drives a misalignment between expectation and reality in the customer's experience. Of course, product planners want to create the perfect product, but even an ideal model can produce a negative customer experience if you don’t plan ahead.
In the wake of COVID-19, companies like Dyson are trying to help the situation by retooling manufacturing to produce vital medical equipment and supplies. Companies like Medtronic are responding in-kind by releasing ventilator design specifications for free use.