The pressure to launch new products is relentless – regardless of the industry that you operate. Markets want the latest and greatest. Customers expect new features. Manufacturers must continually introduce new innovations to ensure their new product pipeline is competitive and compelling.
Fortunately, new digital manufacturing technologies now exist that can really help to ease these challenges. Manufacturers that embrace a digital manufacturing strategy stand to reap significant benefits, such as identifying product quality and production process issues earlier in the product development lifecycle while saving considerable time, cost, and resources along the way.
For the purpose of this article, we’ll define New Product Introduction (NPI) to include each of the following conceptual stages:
- Idea Generation, Screening and Testing
- Business Analysis/Evaluation
- Engineering & Design
- Manufacturing (ramp up & full production)
- Training, Maintenance, and Support
Manufacturers now recognize that digital manufacturing can help play an important role in accelerating the completion of these steps. This can have an enormous impact on how quickly new products are brought to market – empowering manufacturers to do so at a lower cost with greater efficiency.
3 Strategies to Accelerate NPI with Digital Manufacturing
1.Establish a Digital Twin to Better Collaborate Between Engineering & Production –by creating a duplicate virtual representation of your product – a Digital Twin – it is possible to work with greater efficiency between departments. Of course, new products have been engineered with the help of computer design applications for decades, including the creation of digital specifications. The use of a Digital Twin, however, provides an opportunity to better share this intelligence with greater detail during collaborative engineering and design processes and then make this intelligence available during other stages in the NPI process.
2.Leverage a Digital Twin for Process Improvement – during the initial building of a new product, it is expected that revelations will occur warranting process improvement, especially during the initial ramp up to full production. While this may be more common in higher volume environments, it still plays a role for manufacturers operating across a wide variety of other industries. By using a digital twin to “virtually” validate these ramp-up process improvements, considerable knowledge can be gained quickly without having to perform manual steps, saving valuable production time during testing. Further, once process improvements have been identified, the digital twin can help perform other tests, continuing to streamline the ramp-up process.
3.Improve Training Effectiveness – many research studies have been performed to evaluate the fastest, most efficient way to train employees on new topics. As one might expect, reading information from a book ranks quite low for knowledge capture and retention. Virtual Reality, however, scores quite high in each of these attributes (here are 10 case studies that confirm this assumption). By creating a Digital Twin as part of every New Product Introduction cycle, and by ensuring this digital manufacturing strategy stays accurate throughout the entire NPI process, you can have a valuable virtual aide that improves training effectiveness. A team that is better trained can better promote a new product’s capabilities, helping to drive better internal support and usage by end users. Taken together, applying a digital twin to training activities as part of a digital manufacturing strategy can help accelerate the overall NPI lifecycle.
As an overall theme, the use of a digital manufacturing strategy simplifies how information is portrayed or visualized, extending the reach of those who can benefit from this knowledge. By streamlining this information sharing, benefits can be captured that extend beyond the scope of a single department, location or function, helping to deliver greater value across the enterprise.