6 Tips for Accelerating Product Innovation

Sophia Barnett

Technical and Content Writer

December 7, 2023

TABLE OF CONTENTS

​​In the hardware and manufacturing industry, product innovation is not merely an option; it’s an imperative. The ability to continuously ideate, develop, and deliver cutting-edge products is what sets apart industry leaders from those who fade into obsolescence.

A cohesive, collaborative team, where diverse perspectives intertwine and creativity flourishes, forms the bedrock of successful innovation. Engineers with different backgrounds can identify and address problems from unique angles, leading to more comprehensive solutions. Additionally, it fuels more creative approaches to hardware design, leading to the development of products that stand out from the competition.

In this blog, you’ll learn six tips on how to accomplish exactly this–starting with hiring the right team to address roadblocks when they arise.

Six tips for accelerating hardware product innovation

In order to address some of the challenges described above and stay innovative, Duro defined six tips. Here are some strategies we recommend to companies in the hardware and manufacturing industries looking to accelerate product innovation:

Tip 1: Hire a mix of risk-takers and pragmatists.

The strongest teams in the hardware industry are meticulously crafted to balance creativity, practicality, and diverse expertise. Recruiters should look beyond technical skills, seeking individuals who complement each other’s personalities and bring a range of perspectives. A strong team thrives on a blend of risk-taking innovators and pragmatic executors, each contributing unique strengths to the collective effort.

Effective leaders cultivate a culture of creativity and experimentation, empowering their teams to test ideas, iterate on prototypes, and explore new frontiers. Simultaneously, they must balance this spirit of innovation with a focus on practical execution, ensuring that visionary ideas translate into tangible products.

Hardware development requires a tailored approach to creativity and experimentation. Leaders must create an environment where teams feel empowered to test the limits of technology, challenge assumptions, and explore unconventional solutions. At the same time, they need to meet deadlines and deliver products that meet market needs. The hardware product lifecycle demands a delicate balance between ideation and practical execution. While ideation fuels innovation, it is the ability to transform ideas into tangible products that distinguishes exceptional hardware teams. Problem-solving and prototyping are the cornerstones of this. Leaders must guide their teams in bridging the gap between imagination and practicality, ensuring that visionary concepts translate into successful products.

Tip 2: Process is necessary, but agility wins.

Rigid processes often hinder innovation and adaptability. While defined procedures can provide structure and consistency, embracing agile methodologies is a known game-changer that catalyzes rapid iteration and continuous improvement. By incorporating Git-style workflows, user stories, and Scrum frameworks into the hardware development cycle, engineers can effectively manage complex projects and deliver high-quality products with maximized efficiency.

“During business reorganization, constant change is inevitable. Although uncertain and complex, we must remain agile and adaptable to ensure the desired outcomes.” 

— Mathew Lehnig

The stakes are particularly high in hardware engineering, where failures can lead to costly delays and reputational damage–some of the most infamous examples in the hardware industry include the Samsung Galaxy Note 7, a smartphone whose batteries were known to catch fire, or the Intel Pentium 4, a processor with power consumption and overheating problems. 

Agile methodologies promote a fail-fast approach, allowing teams to identify and address issues early in the development process, minimizing the long-term impact of errors. Moreover, agile practices foster open communication and collaboration, facilitating the socialization of ideas and leading to faster convergence on optimal hardware designs.

Tip 3: Establish baselines to evolve designs rapidly.

When designing products and product portfolios, it’s essential to establish standard baselines. By defining common reference points for hardware components, engineers can reuse designs pre-established within the portfolio across multiple product lines, leading to enhanced efficiency and cost-effectiveness. This approach allows engineers to focus on innovative advancements while leveraging proven design foundations.

The significance of standard baselines extends beyond mere component reuse. By standardizing the underlying architecture and design principles, engineers can ensure consistency and predictability throughout the development cycle, minimizing the risk of errors and delays. This structured approach also promotes collaboration and knowledge sharing, as engineers can readily adapt and integrate existing designs into new projects, accelerating innovation and time to market.

Tip 4: Buy the right software.

Using out-of-the-box (OOTB) software simplifies the process of implementation and training for hardware engineers, offering a compelling alternative to custom-built tools. Preconfigured and designed for immediate use, out-of-the-box software eliminates the need for extensive customization. It often incorporates predefined industry best practices, forms, workflows, integrations, and templates. Additionally, comprehensive documentation and training materials facilitate a smoother learning curve for new users.

Leveraging industry-specific best-of-breed software, for your CAD, PLM, MES, ERP, and CRM, empowers hardware engineers to refine workflows and optimize outcomes. These tools address the specific challenges at different stages of the development lifecycle, ensuring efficient and optimal results. Ideally, these tools should be easy to integrate, so that you can share data among different internal teams. For example, Duro PLM integrates with First Resonance ION to ensure BOM consistency across engineering and manufacturing.  

By adopting out-of-the-box software and tailored hardware tools, companies can simplify implementation, accelerate development, and keep all team members on the same page.

Tip 5: Clear, unambiguous documentation saves time.

Maintaining accurate and accessible information is an important part of accelerating development cycles. Where spreadsheets can suffice in the early stages of a hardware company, having the right software in place ensures documentation is standardized and accessible.

Centralized platforms like Product Lifecycle Management (PLM) provide a repository for all hardware-related documentation, including BOMs, design documents, specifications, test results, and revision histories. This eliminates the risk of information silos and ensures that everyone involved in the product development process has access to the most up-to-date information. Additionally, the comprehensive record, captured in the Revision History Table, allows engineers to learn from past experiences, avoid preventable mistakes, and quickly access information for audits. For example, Duro PLM transformed Rapid Robotics’ product data management. By providing a centralized place for product information, Duro PLM ensures everyone works with the latest data. This streamlined the product development process, reducing errors and improving collaboration.

With everyone working from the same source of information, misinterpretations and conflicting information become rare. This clarity and transparency contribute to smoother workflows, faster decision-making, and improved overall productivity. 

PLM isn’t the only tool that facilitates better documentation. For example, requirements management ensures everyone understands what’s needed by customers from the outset, while MES provides manufacturing teams a crystal-clear guide to ensure efficient and consistent production. This goes beyond PLM, encompassing the entire manufacturing process, not just product design.

Tip 6: Address roadblocks quickly by pulling stakeholders into a room.

Roadblocks are unfortunately bound to happen. However, by adopting a proactive and strategic approach to problem-solving, hardware teams can effectively navigate these hurdles and maintain momentum toward their goals.

The first step in overcoming roadblocks is acknowledging their inevitability and creating a set of rules about how to deal with them. Embracing this mindset fosters a culture of preparedness and resilience, allowing teams to anticipate potential challenges and proactively develop mitigation strategies. Instead of viewing roadblocks as insurmountable obstacles, teams should view them as opportunities to learn, adapt, and refine their processes.

Collaboration and open communication are key to overcoming roadblocks. Teams should work with stakeholders to identify root causes and solutions quickly. Proactive engagement with stakeholders and thorough hardware testing can identify and resolve issues early in the development cycle. In this article, Forbes outlines 15 essential tips for fostering strong stakeholder connections to enable effective communication and ensure receptivity to company concerns.

Conclusion

To summarize, hardware companies should focus on hiring the right people, reviewing their software, and setting up processes and documentation to facilitate product innovation. Our recommendations entail:

  • Balancing creativity, practicality, and diverse expertise to bring visionary ideas to life.
  • Using Agile methodologies to enhance innovation, enable rapid iteration, pave the way for continuous improvement, and maintain effective project management.
  • Establishing standard baselines to reuse and adapt designs to create a more agile and efficient design process.
  • Simplifying implementation processes and training for hardware engineers with Out-of-the-box software; address the challenges and needs of hardware development with tailored industry tools.
  • Saving time by writing clear, unambiguous documentation and centralize hardware-related information.
  • Enabling open communication with stakeholders and shared ownership to expedite decision-making when faced with roadblocks.


By adopting these strategies and fostering a culture of innovation, hardware engineers can empower their companies to remain at the forefront of the manufacturing industry.

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