Product Realization
eBook - ePub

Product Realization

Going from One to a Million

Anna C. Thornton

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eBook - ePub

Product Realization

Going from One to a Million

Anna C. Thornton

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About This Book


"A must-read reference for anyone who intends to successfully build a product and bring it to market."
Desh Deshpande, Entrepreneur & Life Member of MIT Corporation

"This book is a go-to resource for new and experienced hardware teams to help them plan for and execute a new hardware startup successfully and avoid common pitfalls. Highly recommended."
Bill Aulet, Managing Director, The Martin Trust Center for MIT Entrepreneurship & Professor of the Practice, MIT Sloan School and Author of Disciplined Entrepreneurship

"An excellent, practical guide for first time entrepreneurs building physical world products."
Laila Partridge, Managing Director, STANLEY+Techstars Accelerator

" Product Realization picks up where so many product design books end. Here is the book that explains it all chock full of shop-floor wisdom, fascinating stories and compelling examples."
Steven Eppinger, Professor of Management Science and Engineering Systems, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

" Product Realization contains the critical information and roadmap hardware entrepreneurs need as they take their concepts from prototype to production."
Ken Rother, Managing Director eLab and Visiting Lecturer of Management, Johnson Graduate School of Management, Cornell University

Product Realization: Going from One to a Million delivers a comprehensive treatment of the entire product launch process from beginning to end. Drawing upon the author's extensive first-hand experience with dozens of successful product launches, the book explores the process of bringing a design from prototype to product. It illustrates the complicated and interdisciplinary process with vignettes and examples, provides checklists and templates to help teams, and points out common challenges teams will face.

Perfect for both students, start-ups, and engineers in the field, Product Realization: Going from One to a Million will be the go-to reference for engineers seeking practical advice and concrete strategies to launch higher quality products, at the right cost and on time.

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Chapter 1

  1. 1.1 Examples
  2. 1.2 Building Ten Thousand is Very Different from Building One
  3. 1.3 Product Realization is a Marathon
  4. 1.4 The Factory is Not a Giant 3D Printer
  5. 1.5 Three Rules
  6. 1.6 Why Learn about Product Realization?
  7. 1.7 Book Structure
Schematic illustration of the flow of four steps. The steps are introduction, about the start of the procedure, product realization process, and product MGMT.
New technology and new products have the potential to transform our lives and our society. Much is written about how to get a spark of an idea and translate that into a prototype and an initial business plan. However, surprisingly little is written about the thousands of complicated steps required to get from that prototype to a finished product in the hands of the customer. Unfortunately, teams almost always underestimate the pain, work, time, and resources involved. As a result, many companies launch new products late, over budget, and with substandard quality.
Product realization (also called launch, transition to production, piloting, or production ramp) starts when the product development team has a looks‐like/works‐like prototype, has defined the product geometry and material, has specified manufacturing methods, and is ready to produce at volume. Most groups believe that if the prototype works and there is a market, it will only take a few months to manufacture the product and start selling it. Whether the new product is a small widget or a complicated aircraft, many products arrive in the market later than anticipated. Many products also arrive with fewer features than planned or are over budget. There are invariably more complications and costs than the team initially predicted. By its very nature, product realization is an iterative, painful, but ultimately rewarding process.
There are only two near‐certainties in product realization: there will be more work than teams plan for, and almost nothing will be done perfectly the first time. Parts will not come out of the mold as expected, packaging will fail to protect products from breaking, and a supplier will not ship a critical part on time.
This book is designed to help students, engineers, start‐ups, and organizations navigate the complex and highly interrelated activities of getting a product into production. This book is not intended to help you come up with a brilliant product idea or market it – there are enough of those books. By understanding the road ahead with all its potholes and detours, teams will better anticipate potential problems before they significantly compromise their business plan. The lessons in this book were gleaned from experiences with over a hundred companies ranging from zero revenue start‐ups to multi‐billion‐dollar companies. While on the surface, the product realization process looks very different for an aircraft vs. a medical device vs. a new drone, most industries use similar methods, principles, and documents. Independent of size, every company must define the product, design their production system, and get everything to work while balancing the competing goals of cost, quality, and schedule.

1.1 Examples

Photo depicts an airplane.
The launch of the Tesla Model 3 appeared in over 500 New York Times articles from January 2017 to May 2018. Since Tesla announced the Model 3, it has become painfully apparent that Elon Musk and his team significantly underestimated the time it would take to bring a high‐volume car with dramatically new technology to the market, while at the same time building a highly automated manufacturing plant. In April 2017, Tesla's market valuation of 50.9 billion USD was higher than that of General Motors, and Tesla promised production of over 500, 000 cars in 2018. However, by the final week of March 2018, Tesla had only produced 2,000 Model 3 vehicles. By mid‐May of 2018, Tesla had shut down production to address critical production issues. Tesla increased production dramatically but by Q3 2019, they were still only producing at an annualized rate of around 319, 000 [1, 2]. While Tesla has not been forthcoming about the exact reasons for the delays in the production ramp, Tesla has hinted at bottlenecks, supplier delays, delivery challenges, quality issues, and over‐automation. Tesla is not unique in its struggles. Other highly publicized delays include:
  • The Joint Strike Fighter (JSF) contract (now F‐35)1 award to Lockheed Martin was announced in 2001 with a plan for combat‐ready aircraft by 2010. The F‐35 has been significantly over budget and behind schedule. It is likely to cost over one trillion USD over the life of the program. As of the publication of this book, Lockheed Martin was still struggling with critical technical deficiencies as they got ready to increase production rates significantly [3].
  • The Boeing 787 was plagued with delays due to documentation errors, supplier delays, assembly errors, supply chain issues, and battery quality issues. The initial cost was budgeted at $6 billion, but it has been estimated that the total cost was probably closer to $32 billion [4].
  • GTAT's attempt to mass‐produce sapphire screens for Apple was plagued with production and yield issues. The yield issues were likely a contributor to the bankruptcy of the company in 2014 [5].
Problems with product realization are not unique to large companies. Companies such as GlowForge (a laser cutter) and Coolest Cooler (a cooler with a battery powered blender), that launched their products on crowdsourcing platforms, have been years late in delivery or never met all of their promised deliveries. Figure 1.1 shows an example of the accumulated delays in one crowdsourced product that raised close to 3 million USD. The original launch promised delivery in 7 months, but the first units did not ship until 27 months after the crowd‐sourced campaign. The timing of each announcement is shown by a horizontal bar with an arrow indicating the delay in the promised product delivery date. The company sent out an update 33 months after their launch, closing the company and apologizing to their customers with excuses about tight finances and increased prices. At the time this book was written, not all of the backers had their products, and the company had not sent an update for six months.
Graph depicts an example of delays in promised delivery dates. The x-axis is represented by delays and the y-axis is represented by months since the start of crowd source campaign.
FIGURE 1.1 Example of delays in promised delivery dates
An article by Jensen and Özkil [6] found that over 40% of the Kickstarter products that they studied were more than a year late, and of those, half never delivered products. Jensen and Özkil found various reasons for these delays, but the most common reasons were issues in product delivery, issues found in quality testing late in production, an...

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