Manufacturing and Brexit: Why you should update your NPI process
Having a set NPI process is crucial for manufacturers today, especially as continued disruption is likely from both the COVID-19 restrictions and Brexit. This is likely to cause issues with both the supply chain and the available markets for new products. If you don’t already have a robust new product introduction process in place, this would be a good time to implement one. For those who do, reviewing your approach and making room for adjustments will help to handle the impact of new rules, regulations, and uncertainty.
What is an NPI?
An NPI (new product introduction) is the steps a manufacturing company takes to release a new product into the market. This begins right at the initial idea stage, through to planning, design and, finally, producing and marketing the finished product. These could be electrical items, vehicles or even a service. The number of steps needed will vary depending on the nature of the product and company and will usually begin by analysing the needs of the customers to produce a relevant concept for their market.
The benefits of following an NPI process
Whether your NPI process flow has 5, 8 or 10 steps, there are definite benefits to having these steps in place:
Quicker time to market
Having all the steps planned out that you need to follow will ensure that every department and team know what they’re doing and where their input is required, ensuring that things run smoothly. It will also allow you to plan out time for necessary tasks to be completed and factor in the time for testing and reviewing.
Reduce development costs
Scoping out the concept in detail at the beginning will help to eliminate false starts and pinpoint areas which might need to be revised. In turn, this lends more success to the stage of building the prototype and sourcing the required materials for production, reducing the risk of error and the associated costs.
Better chance of success
Taking the time to evaluate customer needs and expectations ensures that you are producing something that has an existing market, giving you an increased chance of successful sales once the product has launched.
The key stages of an NPI process
There is no set rule on how many phases you should have within a new product introduction process flow. Generally, you want to make sure you’ve included the key steps from start to finish and then break down each one into specific tasks.
In the example we’ve given, we’ve included 7 stages which commonly form part of an NPI process flow:
This is the very beginning of a project where an idea, or perhaps several ideas, is put forward and discussed in detail. At this point, you’re assessing the needs of the customer, how it might be marketed and solidifying the concept.
2. Analyse potential
Now you’ve got a solid concept, analysing the projected success and business impact is the next stage to ensure it has viability and what would be required within the design.
3. Design and development
Designs and specifications are drawn up for building the product. This will also include planning for validation checks to ensure quality control of all the finished parts. This will be very detailed, incorporating each part and aspect that make up the complete product.
4. Create prototype
With plans drawn and materials identified, it’s time to test it out and build the first prototype. This might involve a lot of trial and error to get it right, where you would report any issues with the likes of materials, supplies and the design in order to inform and improve.
5. Modify and improve
Incorporating stage four, during the initial development you’ll need to allow time for modifications to be made, for fixing any errors and generally making sure the product is right.
6. Test functionality
Once you’ve got the design finalised and ironed out any potential issues, it’s time to build and test it out to ensure everything is working as it should be. You might find issues which take you back to one of the earlier stages, but that’s what the testing stage is about- discovering problems early on.
7. Mass produce
After everything has been tested, validated and materials sourced; this is the point where you can confidently start producing the product on a mass scale ready for the market.
The impact of Brexit on your NPI process
With changes to regulations and markets after Brexit, this is likely to have a widespread effect on many manufacturers, particularly with the supply chain. UK manufacturers sourcing materials from the EU may now be facing increased costs, or difficulty obtaining the same supplies and vice versa.
As Brexit is still very new, companies may still be trying to navigate what it means for them and their business. In times like these where there is a lot of change and uncertainty, being adaptable is crucial in getting through it. Seeing your NPI process flow as fluid, rather than a rigid set of steps will enable you to continually change and improve as you adapt to external circumstances. Find out more about how our NPI software can help you to update your process.