Pixel Tracker

Friday, January 18 , 2019, 2:46 am | Fair 54º


Paul Burri: The Finer Points of Product Development

The first rule to know is that the design process takes time

I sat in on a new-product presentation recently. The presenter had a fancy PowerPoint show with lots of pictures of the design of his prototype along with charts and graphs about his projected costs, sales, etc.

Paul Burri
Paul Burri

The purpose of the presentation was to arouse interest among prospective investors. Included in the show was a time line of his estimated development costs.

As one who is experienced in product development, one item jumped out at me. His time line showed the following:

Design — 3 weeks — completion, January 2011
Prototype fabrication — 6 weeks — completion, March 2011
Tooling fabrication — 16 weeks — completion, July 2011
Production begins — August 2011

The gentleman’s time line illustrates a certain amount of naïveté on his part. The problem here is with the idea that he will produce a prototype and then immediately begin to make tooling — almost certainly to be very expensive — on the basis of that one and only prototype.

I know from long and expensive experience that the very best designs by the most clever designers are never entirely perfect the first time out of the box. On average, it takes three or four modifications of the initial design before all of the bugs are worked out.

What bugs? Here are a few possibilities.

The initial design doesn’t do the job as well as expected. It has a safety hazard consideration that was not foreseen. It is difficult to operate in its original form. It is too expensive to manufacture. A slight modification in design would allow easier and cheaper shipment. A slight modification to the original design would allow for future improved and expanded models. The list goes on.

So for this entrepreneur to expect that he will be able to design and make a single prototype and then immediately go into production is both naïve and risky. Anyone designing a new product should expect to make at least three or four prototypes before deciding on a final design.

To do otherwise would be a costly mistake.

— Paul Burri is an entrepreneur, inventor, columnist, engineer and iconoclast. He is not in the advertising business, but he is a small-business counselor with the Santa Barbara chapter of Counselors to America’s Small Business-SCORE. The opinions and comments in this column are his alone and do not represent the opinions or policies of any outside organization. He can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made using a credit card, Apple Pay or Google Pay, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments and a mailing address for checks.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Select your monthly membership
Or choose an annual membership

Payment Information

Membership Subscription

You are enrolling in . Thank you for joining the Hawks Club.

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover
One click only, please!

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.
You may cancel your membership at any time by sending an email to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.