Preventing Communication Breakdowns from Slowing Product Development

By Owen Camden | October 17, 2017

The product development can be complex and require the coordination of many valuable factors, including time, resources and manpower, to execute correctly.

If any one of those parts – brainstorming sessions, project director meetings, overtime shifts, even employees involved – cause friction during the process, then the entire project can derail.

Here are a few tips from C&K on how companies can avoid common communications mistakes and still deliver quality products to their customers quickly:

#1: ‘Controlled’ Improvisation and Flexibility

Often, product designers and engineers need to create completely original designs with unique needs. They are wading into uncharted territory. Uncertainty arises when dealing with component suppliers because the designers have a general idea of what parts they will need for the device, but aren’t entirely sure how the end product should come together using those parts.

Invariably, the engineer’s description of the design makeup ends up being vague or incomplete, causing confusion and delays until everyone can get on the same page and all factors and parameters are clear.

Allow all involved to share in an open dialogue about their wants, ideas and even concerns about how the product design should unfold. Discussing a set of like-minded questions before any work is done – such as what is the budget, where will the product be available, how many volts do you think the device will need, etc.? – can help get any first meeting of the minds off on the fast track to success.

#2: Reduce the ‘Sales Effect’

Salespeople are the revenue generators of their companies, but typically aren’t technical experts which can cause sticky situations. Salespeople may be prone to telling clients what they want to hear and making promises that can’t be kept because of time, price or capability.

To mitigate the supplier ‘Sales Effect,’ pair salespeople with someone that has technical expertise. This balanced team will help evaluate the application, make informed recommendations and ensure client requests (and promises) are realistic.

#3: Get Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable

Many products have gone awry in their development because people are too nice. Designers and their partners come to the table overly optimistic about the device and component capabilities and eagerly “yes” the project into a bad spot. Unchecked positivity often results in missed deadlines and unmet expectations.

Companies and their partners need to get comfortable making each other uncomfortable. A level of trust must be established from the onset so that each group can ask the difficult questions that expose potential hurdles and roadblocks. Both sides need to be critical, effectively leveraging each other’s knowledge and expertise to make the best product.

#4: Utilize a Product Manager

Gaps in communication don’t end when the product is manufactured. Product decisions are often made without input from manufacturing, leading to beautiful designs that are difficult to put together. This is why companies need to enable a system that fosters relationships between manufacturing and design, particularly if those operations are based in separate countries.

The best thing a company can do to coordinate the efforts of the product design and manufacturing teams is to utilize a product manager. Product managers are empowered with an overview of the entire process and can head off problems before they become crises. They will chair meetings between the two groups to make sure designs are truly ‘designed for manufacturability’ at a high-quality level.

Communication is the foundation upon which all successful product development programs and launches are built. We work closely with global brands to help them avoid production slowdowns so they can deliver a quality product to market quickly. Interested in giving us a try? Check out what makes us different from other electromechanical switches by going here.