Product Planning - a Cross-Departmental Challenge
Developing new products and managing the product life cycle is a central task and prerequisite for the success of a company. The product life cycle is continuously shortening. Existing products are being replaced by new products - with partially disruptive technologies - and are capturing valuable market share. Depending on the complexity and the technologies used, each product development process takes different lengths of time. The integration of new technologies, individual customer requirements and increased market transparency increase the requirements.
In order to develop innovative, customer-oriented products, employees from different departments and locations cooperate - often even on an international level. While strategic product planning used to be a matter for just a few people in the past, agile management styles distribute responsibility over many shoulders. But the combination of different perspectives and different know-how generates new, creative ideas. Valuable impulses come from internal and external research and development. Profitability, fulfillment of customer needs, long-term corporate strategies and technical feasibility are decisive factors for the selection of product ideas that go through the actual development process.
Product development - concrete design
The development of the concrete design requires a high level of specialized knowledge of technicians and engineers. The product development process is in its decisive phase. It is essential to meet defined milestones on time and to detect errors promptly in order to keep costs and effort at an economical level. It is essential to minimize the risk throughout all design and test phases. The programming of software as well as the development of electronic components is carried out promptly in order to obtain functional prototypes as quickly as possible. The exchange of the teams involved and the access to current development data in real time is supported by suitable software. The high level of transparency allows simultaneous work on the design process. This is divided into individual, clearly structured processes. The design process is completed as soon as there is a functional and extensively tested prototype that meets all defined requirements and has a minimum of complexity for production.
Production planning - Efficient series production
From the point of view of lean production, i.e. the maximum increase in productivity and efficiency, the prototype is transferred to production according to a defined manufacturing concept. This includes the concrete planning of production and the establishment of suitable infrastructure. Depending on the product, the definition of the manufacturing steps and the retooling of the equipment requires varying degrees of effort. Once series production has successfully started, the product development process is largely completed. In many cases, structured product lifecycle management is now used to develop special product variants adapted to specific target markets and target groups. If errors or weaknesses become apparent in the use of the product by customers, these are eliminated during ongoing production. Only rarely is a production stop necessary.
The challenging Product Lifecycle Management
According to the classical definition, the product lifecycle begins with the market launch. Throughout the growth and maturity phase, the sales figures and turnover of successful products continuously develop positively. In the saturation phase, the product loses its appeal, only to reach the end of its life in the degeneration phase.
Product Lifecycle Management influences how long the individual phases last. During the saturation phase at the latest, a company should have a product successor at hand in order not to lose valuable market share to the competition.
From a new perspective, the product lifecycle includes the entire product development phase. For the product development process, it is important to incorporate the findings from previous, market-tested products and, based on this, to avoid errors or reuse successful features. Making continuous improvements to all components of the product ensures that customers remain loyal to the company and are enthusiastic about it. Storing all important data and information in one software guarantees that all employees across departments have a uniform level of knowledge.
Software support in the product development process
By defining a clear workflow, the use of central software that can be used to control the entire product development process enables simultaneous work on different components and development steps. Being able to retrieve important data digitally reduces the communication effort between the individual departments and within the teams. Within the framework of agile development processes, hierarchies can be reduced - without overriding responsibilities. Supervisors and employees have the same rights to access data. A risk assessment in terms of releasing sensitive development data depends on the respective product.
To ensure the quality of the finished product, continuous quality management is an important prerequisite. Using software-based methods in the product development process helps to detect errors early on, to solve them in a team and to reliably meet the budget and time frame. The higher the proportion of electronics and software in a product, the more important it is to use digital methods in the product development process. A decisive advantage of using software in the product development process is that the focus on the customer through the higher-level product lifecycle management is central.
Control over major projects
Managing large projects within the framework of product lifecycle management is a challenge that only a few companies can master. The implementation of software that makes the product lifecycle - especially the product development process - controllable reduces complexity. The software helps to break down the product development process into individual sub-processes with a clear distribution of roles and hierarchies. Within the sub-processes, individual areas - such as software development - can be organized in an agile manner. Interdisciplinary collaboration is effectively supported in the product development process by the software, or in some cases - for example, cross-national cooperation between different companies - is only possible in the first place.
Software that supports the product life cycle and especially the product development process is becoming a decisive competitive factor. The higher the similarities between products, the more time is a critical factor in the global competition for market share and customers. The product lifecycle is shortening as the mechanical complexity decreases and the share of software in the products increases. Customers continuously expect new features. Updates and modified versions can extend the product life cycle. Software supports companies in the introduction of these as well as in the development of new products.