Product Development is a Natural Framework for CPD for Engineers

Product development is vitally important to companies, if successful it ensures future income and profitability, failure can be disastrous.

Product development is a natural framework for CPD for engineers, it naturally covers virtually all aspects of industry.

Using product development as a framework for CPD allows virtually all aspects of industry to be integrated in a logical manner.

Figure 1 Some Major Activities of Product Development
Figure 1 Some Major Activities of Product Development

Finance- target product price is a key design parameter- target costs associated with the production, distribution and sales of a new product should be part of the product specification. Costs should be checked during the development phase as a matter of routine.

Many aspects of business finance: cash flow, profit and loss, tax, VAT etc, can be covered in the framework of product development.

Marketing- in its wider sense plays a key role in product specification. Environmental factors such as operating temperature range, vibration, which EU directives are relevant, health and safety are naturally covered in the product development process. Finance and marketing are intimately related.

Management- especially Project Management, is vital for product development. Products must be developed within budget, meet target price, be developed on time and meet all aspects of the product specification.

Manufacture- manufacturability must be an integrated aspect of product development. Regular meetings between development engineers and production engineers is essential to ensure efficient product manufacture.

Quality- quality assurance and quality control are fundamental activities devised by engineers over decades. Quality, in the engineering sense is not just a sequence of procedures, it involves measurement and the use of statistics.

Design- is the kernel of the development process. Electronic based products involve electronic hardware, software, case design, etc. Many products use embedded electronics, such as medical devices, automobiles and aircraft. Electronics is an enabling technology. Civil engineering projects and many mechanical products use electronics extensively.

The list above is illustrative, it is not meant to be exhaustive: it is meant to show the rich CPD environment product development provides for engineers.

Training- CPD is a must for modern engineers, it can consists of formal education, but engineers should be prepared to self educate over most of their professional life.

Figure 2 The Complete Life Cycle of a Successful Product
Figure 2 The Complete Life Cycle of a Successful Product

Many marketing texts describe the product life cycle between the product launch and its withdrawal.

This only part of the story.

Clearly every product must start with an idea, the conceptual phase.

The idea must be specified and planned, designed tested etc- the development phase.

Note that product production, test, packaging, component procurement etc must all be up and ready to go for successful product launch.

The product development is normally a negative cash flow phase and it can be very expensive.

After product launch product sales start to generate income. A product would be expected to pay its development cost, manufacturing costs and make a positive contribution to the companies finances- it must be profitable.

The growth phase is where sales are increasing, the mature phase is where the product is selling well and making a profit.

Eventually sales will start to fall, usually because competitive products are affecting our sales, this is the decline phase.

At some point the product becomes non-profitable and is withdrawn.

CPD and the Product Life Cycle

Figure 2 illustrates the richness of the product development framework for CPD- a course designed to cover product development allows virtually any business activity to be included.

The product development framework allows subject areas and topics to be integrated in a naturally coherent manner.

The scope for CPD is wide, for example idea generation leads to innovation, product withdrawal underlines the need for the continuous development of new products.

It is unlikely that product development could be taught comprehensively in a 3 year degree course and academics, with little or no practical experience, would probably find teaching such a course outside their scope.

CPD naturally extends over the working life of engineers- courses should be available on demand and be affordable.

The complete product development cycle is vitally important for engineering companies, especially in the SME sector.