Everyone agrees on the value of prototyping during product development. Prototyping early and often can expedite new product development (NPD) projects and ensure a great product. Here’s why outsourcing prototype production is often the best way to achieve new product success.
- Timing—Outsourcing prototyping provides additional resources that prevent overloading your in-house NPD team. Midsize manufacturers often make the mistake of trying to fit prototype development and builds into the existing manufacturing schedule. This puts a strain on in-house systems and production resources. That’s bad for both NPD projects and current production. Teaming with an external resource allows you to know beforehand how long it will take to build a prototype, and thereby, create accurate scheduling to keep your project on track.
- Resources—Outsourcing NPD prototyping allows you to leverage the experience and tools of outside experts. It would be great if you had an in-house prototype shop, full of expensive CNC centers, 3D printers, and a bull pen of engineers and techs to run them. However, most companies can’t support such inside resources. The good news is you can hire the people and tools on an as-needed basis by outsourcing. Additionally, if multiple builds are necessary (aesthetic, functional), multiple vendors can be hired, allowing for parallel work that reduces time to market.
- Cost—Outsourcing can help control NPD costs. It can be hard to trace all in-house resources used in a prototype build (ID, engineering, machinists, quality) and, therefore, difficult to assess true cost. Outsourcing lets you know the cost of a prototype build before pulling the trigger.
- Production Flexibility—Today the line between prototyping and production is blurred. New 3D printing techniques make 3D parts that are hard to tell from production parts. Laser sintering and robust printing methods can even produce tooling for short-run production. These short-run production methods, such as aluminum bridge tooling, are becoming more common and increasingly popular. It’s no surprise since they fit hand-in-glove with today’s lean product development model. The design process can be front-loaded to explore a greater number of possible solutions. Short-run production tooling allows the vetting of ideas in a production medium saving the time and cost of traditional production tooling. Several ideas can be quickly designed, tooled, and tested, and changes can be made inexpensively. Bridge tooling can cost as little as one-third of production tooling. And new technologies can yield low volumes of production parts for less than a quarter of production tooling.
- Innovation—Outsourcing prototype builds spurs innovation. By going outside, organizations benefit from innovative materials and production methods that are likely not available in-house. Of course, that means the creation of more innovative products.
It’s becoming an à la carte world and outsourcing is a big part of that. Outsourcing prototype and initial run production lets you have the best of the best without the cost of keeping it all in house. Better products. Lower cost. Streamlining success.