hardware failure

Why Hardware Failure Is More Costly Than Software Design Failure

Business success relies heavily on the customer value and overall experience your product provides. It can be harder for a business to recover from hardware product development failure than a software product design failure.

Software product modifications can be adjusted to address client needs much quicker with custom updates and code patches, and with minimal impact to your customer base. Hardware product design changes and in-field malfunction are quite different. It takes on various forms, from a product failing to work to a product that works but functions differently than what the customer wanted and requiring changes to be seen as useful.

Startups Can’t Afford A Hardware Failure Product Recall

The Peleton treadmill recall for child safety example is how a hardware accessory product recall can impact an established brand. Peleton will likely recover from the brand and revenue impact. However, many companies, particularly Startups, have a high probability that a product failure will drastically impact customer confidence and tank their business.

Below are 5 best practice risk-assessment tips to help Startups ensure long-term business and customer confidence in their next hardware product delivered to market.

1. Have a business plan and get educated on the hardware product development process

Be aware that hardware product success is a thought-out, carefully crafted, decades-old process that requires deep knowledge. Crowdfunding represents 50% of new hardware startups and is a platform that allows entrepreneurs to voice compelling new product pitches that can raise millions.

The downside with Crowdfunding is the Entrepreneur isn’t required to have a solid business plan or understanding of the hardware product design and delivery process. Don’t put yourself in this position. Have a solid business plan and educate yourself on the hard goods product design and delivery process early.

This will help you understand how complex your product development process will be. It will also help you realize if you can address these complexities in-house or if you need to find an outside team with the diverse skills needed to successfully guide you.

2. Suppliers, Manufacturer and Design Risks

Create your supply logistics network. Having this network in place allows you to evaluate and eliminate many high-risk items early on in the hardware product development process. As an example, a business risk that can creep up is when product designers push the opportunity envelope, hungry to find ways to deliver even more value.

They are not trained in assessing engineering or manufacturing impacts and this enthusiasm can pose a big risk. I can’t stress enough the value of having deep early knowledge of where the risk lies and the magnitude of the potential problem. Know your teams’ expertise and weaknesses. If necessary, tap into outside experts to guide you through the manufacturing and supplier selection process.

3. Integrate Manufacturing Thinking Early On

Designing for new features that deliver WOW user reactions and simultaneously designing for feasible low risk manufacturing should be thought of as a marriage as it relates to maximizing opportunity and minimizing the risks.

70% of product designs require 1 or more major component or feature redesigns when their product reaches the manufacturer review stage. You can decrease this percentage dramatically with manufacturing knowledge specialists that use a variety of tools to align the manufacturing elements with the business model.

4. Know the Importance of the Concept Design Stage

There are four essential hardware development stages of the ‘design to production’ gate process. These include Concept Design, Detailed Engineering, Prototype & Test, and Transfer to your Manufacturing team. The Concept Design phase is particularly important as it is the time where you determine what the product will look like and how it will work.

It’s also the time to select your major parts and materials, architect the product structure, select microprocessors radio connections to the world, and layout the user interface. Decisions on these major configuration items in the Concept Design stage must be looked at from many angles to ensure a positive end result that aligns with the target user’s needs and expectations and at a reasonable price point.

5. Configure, Select, Evaluate, Test, Test, Test

You cannot test everything but you can identify and quantify your risk for your most critical choices and decisions. There are hundreds of decisions that impact hardware product risk. The impact of heat and water, to the choices you make for materials, to manufacturing and supply risks.

Implementing tests throughout the entire development and testing process will help keep a hardware product design on track. Also, extend its lifecycle and keep it out of the hardware failure bin. Find the expertise to guide you throughout the process. You will then have a shot at joining the very few hardware product winners that go on to achieve happy customers, expanding sales, and ultimately business success.

About the Author

Kevin Bailey, CEO at Design 1st

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