There’s a lot of buzz about new technologies and their potential for advancing product features and performance. “It could be a new material, a new sensor, or a new method, such as using laser instead of electrical energy,” explains Perry Parendo. However, Parendo, president of product development coaching firm Perry’s Solutions LLC, thinks the focus should be less about technology and more about the customer. “Adding some things may be easy, such as including a WIFI option—but does the customer really need it?
“Addressing new customer needs could be done more, which opens the door for new technologies,” he continues. “It is about bringing ‘never been done before’ technologies to customers.” The challenge for engineers is to understand those customer needs and determine whether new technologies offer value in meeting them.
Parendo will be speaking about new technologies as well as risk management at the upcoming Advanced Manufacturing Minneapolis event. In “Introducing Technology with Reduced Risk,” he’ll be exploring a different process for managing new technology development. “Managing a project with only existing technology should be managed differently compared with a new product with new technologies,” he says. “The problem is—they are not, in what I see at companies. Either they are managed the same, or not managed at all. My talk is about a different process for new technology development.”
Parendo will also be presenting “Risk Management: Lessons Learned” and sharing tips for implementing ISO 14971.
Design News asked Parendo a few questions about new technologies, product development, risk management, technical challenges, and more, ahead of the show.
What challenges do engineers face during product development in particular, and how could new technologies help them?
Parendo: New technologies tend to be layered on top of existing products. While many good features exist, I think effort should be put into tuning, simplifying, and even eliminating existing features when adding new technologies. This reduces cost and improves usability without negatively impacting product performance. The challenge is to understand the value proposition and take the appropriate action.
Does the product development process need to be radically changed or is incremental change possible?
Parendo: Companies seem to gravitate toward making radical process changes, but I think making the most of existing processes would create the massive impacts that are desired. For example, we could benefit from ensuring our team is motivated. We could also gain from understanding and fully benefiting from the value of the process steps. Companies tend to emphasize different stages or aspects of the development process to create competitive advantage, but the radical changes tend to balance generic process attributes. Do better at what creates your competitive advantage and do it better than anyone else. Perfecting every step does not create enough benefit compared to the effort needed to implement it.
For example, some companies emphasize requirements generation and others focus on concept development. Those require different tools and skill sets. Focus on the ones that impact your priority area and you will be much more satisfied with the outcome.
How do engineers advocate for either type of change in their departments?
Parendo: When value is not being recognized in a key process step by other groups, someone experienced with extracting the value should step up in a mentoring role. Few process steps should feel like pure bureaucracy, and even those should be simplified and could value from mentoring. This mentoring could improve use of a tool or associated skills.
How can risks be managed during the shift toward use of new technologies?
Parendo: Probably the easiest way to manage risks is to develop multiple concept options. Some have the new technology and some with other advancements. If the new technology works in a reasonable timeframe, then that option can be continued (if it makes sense for other reasons). If it does not perform as needed, then the new product can still move forward with a different option. This allows more time for technology development and a future new technology product release.
Is there a misconception about the development process that would help new technologies?
Parendo: Too often we test to confirm our knowledge but that almost eliminates our ability to improve in big steps. With new technology we need to accelerate the speed of learning. This requires a different style of testing and thinking. A highly efficient method of doing this is Design of Experiments (DOE), which can be used in R&D situations successfully. This is the only way I have found to make step improvements with new design concepts.
How will your session help product developers and design engineers?
Parendo: The session, “Introducing Technology with Reduced Risk,” will provide 5 areas to improve the technology development process. Each area has several options and each alone can create a big advantage. Picking the one with the most relevance to your organization can obtain significant and timely impact.