Time to Market: How to Accelerate Product Development with PLM

July 5, 2023


Bringing your hardware product to market before your competitors can positively affect your market share. Having a first-mover advantage is particularly beneficial for those in the hardware product development space.  

But how can you move faster when there are multiple moving parts to handle — from supply chain fluctuations to quality evaluation processes and managing external suppliers and manufacturers?

Adhering to the product lifecycle is critical for your product to be competitive and to ensure quality throughout the product development process. While the process is important, there also needs to be enough of a differentiator between your product and other solutions to make it valuable in the marketplace.

This article will explore how to maximize efficiency by using streamlined workflows. Additionally, it’ll give you some tips on how to accelerate your time to market while still remaining innovative.

What is time to market?

“Time to market” (TTM) is simply the time it takes from the initial concept to your first sale of the new product after the product launch. It factors in the entire hardware product development process.

Why time to market is vital in today’s business landscape

In today’s business landscape, all team members must collaborate in real time to satisfy product quality and optimize TTM. Here’s why:

Gain a competitive advantage & improve brand reputation

A faster time to market gives you an advantage over competitors. 

For example, you would be the first to set prices for this product. You could incorporate any early-stage customer feedback to move ahead of the competition before they can develop a viable MVP. It gives you the opportunity to grow market share and build a loyal customer base.

Brands that consistently deliver excellent hardware products before their competitors will always be seen as industry leaders. They’re often perceived as efficient and reliable. A potent reputation for efficiency and professionalism drives business growth. It helps attract more customers, and improve word-of-mouth marketing through referrals.

Lower production costs

Quicker time to market allows for early identification of potential issues, avoiding costly rework or product recalls. The shorter timeframes also encourage more efficient resource utilization and optimized production schedules, lowering inventory holding costs and reducing wastage as a result. 

Obtain faster revenue generation

A quality new product that is introduced promptly can speed up the time it takes for your company to generate revenue. It allows your team members to make changes as needed to develop new versions of the hardware.

Faster revenue generation also improves the time it takes to see a return on investment. A healthy cash flow can lead to better decisions and a more precise approval process.

Maximize ROI

Optimizing your return on investment is attributed to the speed of your (successful) product launch. Getting your hardware product in the right hands before anyone else can increase price points and encourage feedback on improvements, leading to quicker resource recouping.

Align with consumer expectations and market trends

With dynamic expectations, customer feedback and buy-in from stakeholders will help to build a group of users to champion your product and its capabilities. For example, the quicker you develop an MVP, the faster you can eliminate bottlenecks and deliver the full solution your customer asked for.

However, it’s important to recognize that speed should never come at the expense of quality. Launching quickly also allows your business to gather customer feedback earlier, which helps you identify areas for improvement and incorporate customer suggestions for future iterations. This can help foster customer loyalty and trust, demonstrating that your company values their feedback. 

Challenges that can impede time to market

A faster TTM does offer many advantages in the product development lifecycle, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t without obstacles. Here are the most common challenges that can delay your progress:

  • Supply chain issues: Internal and external supply chain issues heavily impact product development timelines, as out of stock components need to be replaced.
  • Unforeseen economic circumstances: The eventual product launch can be hindered by unexpected events. Global pandemics, macroeconomic changes, and logistics can all impact operations and resources.
  • Changing customer demand: New research, rapid developments, and a changing sentiment can significantly impact a customer’s demand for your product in an omnichannel environment.
  • Competitive developments: Competitors may launch a competing hardware product or use innovative marketing tactics to influence customer perception. Your brand must stay vigilant, agile, and flexible to remain relevant.
  • Issues in manufacturing network: Problems with staffing, approval processes, and quality control can lead to mistakes or slow down manufacturing.
  • Rework following errors in design: Design flaws hamper your ability to get to market quickly. The rework required to fix and approve the design can significantly endanger your optimal TTM.

How PLM helps accelerate time to market for your hardware product

Identifying your company’s challenges is the first step to improving your TTM while still adhering closely to an excellent product development lifecycle.

To overcome these hurdles, you can adopt the following solutions to accelerate your TTM:

1. Centralize your product data with product lifecycle management software

Product lifecycle management (PLM) software centralizes your bill of materials (BOM), design revisions and other essential product data. It makes change order processes faster and ensures your engineering, manufacturing, and development teams remain on the same page. 

PLM systems also enable businesses to be agile, for example by streamlining the process of selecting alternative suppliers if something is out of stock. Rather than relying on team members to manually flag an out-of-stock part and find a new supplier, PLM software like Duro indicates pricing availability for every component. You can quickly find replacement components when needed.

PLM is more than just software; it’s a business strategy. This is why choosing a reliable PLM system is critical. Duro’s PLM software can help reduce errors, facilitate collaboration, and ensure data accuracy, providing a centralized platform to manage all aspects of product development and launch.

2. Promote cross-functional collaboration

Your optimal time to market positively correlates with the level of collaboration between your teams. Manufacturing and engineering stakeholders can use cloud-native PLM solutions like Duro to enable timely and accurate information sharing. 

This software also gives departments more control over which elements of their designs to release, when to share information, and who can review and approve changes. Thereby all teams gain access to exactly the information they need, when they need it.

3. Create repeatable processes that are easy to follow

Standardizing your workflows and processes is crucial for your company. A standardized process limits errors by creating bite-sized and manageable steps. This significantly reduce the likelihood of guesswork and rework.

The process for submitting engineering change orders (ECO) can be improved by streamlining workflows in a PLM platform. By ensuring it’s easy to submit a change and alert colleagues for feedback helps speed up product development.

4. Leverage automation where possible

Manual and repetitive tasks risk errors and hamper your team’s attentiveness and focus on important engineering work. 

Leveraging automation within tools with the right PLM system can help reduce errors with data entry, component sourcing, and BOM version management.

5. Reuse core configurations and designs

Using existing company knowledge and building upon previously successful designs can expedite your product launch. Engineers should maintain core configuration designs to use as effective templates for developing new hardware products.

SpaceX’s engineering team took a similar approach; studying previous rocket design methods helped ensure success in the Apollo program. 

6. Build and sustain strong supplier relationships

In comparing centralized and distributed supply chain models, the centralized model offers lower risk, complexity, and BOM costs for producing and shipping products from one location. Rather than operating from one location, distributed models operate out of several nodes strategically located across different regions.

Despite being perceived as having higher costs, the distributed model allows faster time to market and scalability. Engineers can adapt suppliers based on availability and pricing. The true cost — including factors like freight, duty, and shipping time — is often overlooked in the BOM cost.

Incorporating supply chain expertise into the new product introduction (NPI) process can help you prevent issues that may occur during volume production. This includes identifying parts with long lead times, selecting suppliers closer to the factory location, and implementing a demand-driven supply chain approach that responds directly to the demands of your consumers.

7. Establish measures to track and evaluate results

KPIs should be meaningful and address bottlenecks in the development process. Product quality, development cycle time, productivity, and market adoption are great metrics to observe to help you implement data-driven strategies that improve TTM.

You’ll need to monitor these metrics and strategies on an ongoing basis to assess their effectiveness and make adjustments based on the insights gained, ensuring continuous alignment with TTM goals.

8. Continuously iterate and improve

Your business is a lot like a shark: if it stops moving, it stops functioning. Incorporate customer feedback, champion stakeholder buy-in, align your teams, encourage innovation, and encourage everyone to speak up if they find any inefficiencies.

Make it part of your review and project management methodology to ask for feedback and continuously embrace a culture of creativity.

Expedite your time to market

A fast TTM has become more than just a luxury. To stay relevant and competitive, your brand must adopt a dynamic approach to your product development lifecycle.

You can accelerate your TTM — while still adhering to regulations and quality control — by centralizing product data, promoting cross-functional collaboration, leveraging automation, and reusing core designs.

Duro’s PLM solution enables you to streamline hardware development processes, getting all team members on the same page and giving you a competitive advantage.

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