The process of developing a product is long and can be difficult at times so it isn’t uncommon to get stuck at one point or another. Even experienced product developers and inventors get stuck every now and then. When we feel stuck, it can cause stress, reduced levels of motivation and slow down the progress towards what we want to achieve. But getting stuck also helps us see things in a different light and try a different approach. Without a doubt, there are numerous innovative ideas in the present moment that find themselves in a stagnant phase. This is why we have collated 6 of the more common reasons why a physical product development can get stuck and how to approach these in order to move forward.
1. Brilliant idea but no knowledge or skills in product developmentWhen it comes to developing a physical product, you have to deal with design complexities, software, selecting appropriate materials and production technologies, testing, prototyping, etc. Failure to address these hurdles effectively can lead to significant delays in the development process or increase your overall costs.
If you find yourself with a brilliant product idea but lack the technical skills or know-how to bring it to life, it's understandable to feel stuck. However, rest assured, this is one of the more manageable obstacles to overcome.
Solution:You have two main options to resolve this problem (unless you have time to learn a degree on top of running a business of course) - you could hire an in-house team or get in touch with a product development services company. We talked about the pros and cons of these in one of our previous posts but in short, if you want to move quickly and have the most flexibility, a product development services agency is typically the best choice.
We also know that selecting a product development firm is a significant decision and therefore you should definitely meet with a couple of different agencies and ask them a variety of questions before making your decision. Ask them about their previous experiences - while they don’t need experience in your exact type of product, they should have translatable experience. It is very common for product design firms to work on a diverse range of industries and products which can be a great advantage, as technologies, methods and practices can be carried over from one industry to another.
You should also learn about their prototyping capabilities and track record of taking products into manufacturing - designing the prettiest product that customers love but can’t be manufactured profitably or with good quality isn’t good business. Prototype quality also becomes increasingly important as you progress through the product development process - you want your customers to ask “When can I buy it?” when they see your prototypes.
2. Too busy with day-to-day businessAs a business owner, your days are consumed by managing urgent matters and keeping your business running smoothly. The relentless demands of daily operations leave little time for anything else. Your team is constantly pulled in different directions, tackling pressing issues as they arise and you find it challenging to dedicate time to long-term strategic planning. Allocating resources for product development feels like an impossible task, not to mention prototyping, manufacturing and launches. With your attention focused on urgent matters, it's understandable that long-term planning takes a backseat but neglecting strategic planning can limit the growth and potential of your business.
Solution:One approach is to delegate responsibilities and empower capable team members to handle daily operations, freeing up time for you and your team to focus on strategic planning. Implementing effective systems and processes can also help reduce the need for constant firefighting.
Additionally, setting aside dedicated time for strategic sessions, away from day-to-day distractions, can help you and your team devise a roadmap for product development. This might involve quarterly or annual planning sessions, where you assess market trends, analyze customer needs, and prioritize development initiatives.
3. Differing visions on the end productWhen it comes to product development, it's common for companies to generate a plethora of new ideas. However, the real challenge arises when team members fail to align on which product to pursue and the specific features it should encompass. This lack of consensus leads to mixed messages and conflicting directions, hindering any meaningful progress. Moreover, the development process can be greatly affected if there is scope creep - the uncontrolled expansion of a project's scope. These factors introduce delays, create confusion among team members, and make it difficult to maintain a clear development path.
Solution:One of the most effective ways to address this problem is by seeking insight and validation from your future customers - ultimately, they are the ones who will decide whether to buy your product or not. Conduct rigorous customer research and obtain feedback to make informed decisions throughout your physical product development process. Ensure your product meets customers’ needs.
Furthermore, transparent discussions and involving stakeholders can resolve conflicts and establish a unified vision. Implement effective project management strategies to manage changing requirements and mitigate scope creep risks. Define clear project scopes, set realistic timelines, and establish change control mechanisms.
4. Hit a roadblock with a componentYou and your team have been working on the development of your new product and everything has been going well. All of a sudden, you get stuck on a component and don’t know how to proceed.
Solution:There are a variety of solutions to try in this case. Brainstorming sessions with your team can generate a wide range of ideas and potential solutions. Encourage an open and non-judgmental environment where everyone can freely contribute their thoughts. Often, combining diverse perspectives leads to breakthrough insights. You could also try explaining the issue to a colleague who is not directly involved in the project, or in the absence of another person, even speaking to an inanimate object like a rubber duck can work wonders. Sometimes articulating the problem out loud can help you see it from a different angle and trigger new insights.
Secondly, give your brain some breathing space to process the problem subconsciously. Take a break from the immediate task and engage in activities that allow your mind to wander, such as taking a walk, exercising, or simply taking a moment to clear your head. Often, ideas and solutions can emerge when you least expect them to.
You could also reflect on past challenges you've encountered and successfully resolved. Draw parallels between those situations and your current problem, as there may be similarities that can serve as a starting point for potential solutions.
Sometimes, focusing solely on the challenging problem can lead to mental blocks. Consider temporarily switching gears and working on a different task or aspect of the project. Diversifying your work can refresh your perspective and boost creativity when you return to the original challenge.
If the challenge is particularly complex or technical, consider seeking advice from external experts or consultants. Fresh eyes and specialized knowledge can provide valuable input and suggest alternative approaches.
5. Costs of product developmentThe upfront costs involved in product development, whether for prototypes, tooling, hiring additional personnel, or outsourcing a product team, can be a significant hurdle. Many individuals find themselves daunted by these expenses. It is undeniable that developing products can be costly. However, the true magnitude of expenses arises when late-stage changes become necessary due to initial assumptions and shortcuts.
Solution:Overcoming the initial shock of expenses in creating physical products is important, as costs are often higher than expected. However, it's crucial to consider the broader perspective and compare product development costs to the total expenses of bringing the product to market. Product design and engineering typically represent only 5% of overall production costs, with the remaining 95% allocated to materials, labor, and overhead expenses. Neglecting proper investment in product development can lead to higher costs later on. It's crucial to get designs right the first time and consider downstream business implications and return on investment. Factors like resource allocation, timeline effects, monthly overhead costs, and delayed revenue should be taken into account.
While limited cash flow may be a legitimate constraint in many cases, it's essential to recognize the high cost of lost opportunities. When planning your next product, weigh the trade-off between delayed launches and investment decisions. Assess the cost of a one-month product launch delay to make informed investment choices.
As an example, we managed to save one of our customers almost half a million euros within the first two years of production by optimizing the machining for various components during the development phase. We worked on simplifying the geometry to broaden the selection of machinery that can be used to produce the components thus extending the range of possible alternative suppliers. On top of that, we decreased the amount of required tools bringing the manufacturing costs down while retaining all required features and interfaces.
6. Regulatory, compliance and intellectual property issuesCompliance with industry regulations, safety standards, and legal requirements can be a complex and time-consuming process. Failure to navigate these issues properly can result in delays and additional costs. What’s more, legal issues related to intellectual property, such as patents, trademarks, or copyrights, can create roadblocks in product development as well.
Solution:With this one, prevention is definitely better than finding a solution to a problem. Before investing heavily in product development, conduct thorough searches and consult with legal professionals to assess the existing intellectual property landscape and regulatory and compliance requirements. This includes patents, trademarks, and copyrights; safety regulations, industry standards, labeling requirements, and certification processes. Addressing these aspects early on can save time and resources in the long run. Actively monitor any changes or updates in these areas to ensure your product development aligns with the latest requirements.
Keep detailed records of all compliance efforts, regulatory submissions, intellectual property filings, and any correspondence with regulatory bodies. Well-documented records demonstrate your commitment to compliance and serve as evidence of due diligence.
What’s more, if your product incorporates unique features or innovations, consider filing for intellectual property protection such as patents, trademarks, or copyrights. This can help safeguard your product from unauthorized use and provide a competitive advantage in the market.
ConclusionPeople and businesses can get stuck in the product development process for a variety of reasons, with some of the most typical being monetary limitations, struggling to allocate time, not enough skills or know-how and the scary world of regulations, intellectual property etc. But every situation has a solution, some easier and some harder to complete. We want you to know that you are not alone, a lot of great products might be at a standstill right now and what matters is that you don’t just give up - if you ever find yourself stuck, you can refer back to this blog post to find solutions.
And if you need a partner that would help guide you through the product development process in addition to providing the skills and know-how then we are here to help. We, at Raab, don’t just provide a technical product development service, we can also support you with project management, prototyping, finding suppliers and so on if this is something you need. Get in touch today and let’s synergize our know-how with your business competence!