Product Development Engineers & How They Interface with Marketing
Product development is the lifeblood of any competitive growing full-service company. This includes medical devices, industrial, food, chemical products, etc. New product introductions can only be successful if they are listening to the voice of their customers, making high-quality products, and offer reasonably priced solutions.
How to find these opportunities is the job of the marketing team. What’s hot, what’s not, and where is the business going by the time the next product is ready for release. Easy questions, more often than not, tough answers.
The marketing strategy is not just to research brand new products, but also improve existing or legacy devices. Once the medical device field accepts a product design, advancements can be made incrementally or in batches to improve the results for the patients, time to complete a procedure with high-quality results, or even extend the products life cycle.
Innovative products should be forward thinking to involve new technology whenever possible, stay reasonably priced, but challenge the current design(s) as the best in class so long as safety and efficacy are never compromised. Questions you must answer: Are they value-added or are they truly going to change the way everyone conducts business?
When a new opportunity arrives, a composite list of potential products is accumulated. Both marketing personnel and their product development counterparts will meet numerous times to review the “shopping list”. This process should identify the market potential, all constraints that could prevent the product from being completed, required introduction dates by year and quarter, the likelihood of making the product with existing technology, and regulatory expectations for a Class II 501(k) device versus a Class III clinical study product classification.
Once a new product idea is accepted into the stage gate development process, an appropriate project leader, support team members, and budget(s) need to be established along with any company monitoring activities like the Project Management Organization (PMO) team may utilize, weekly/monthly project management updates, and project plans (if a PMO group is not at your site). This is a critical time where cross-function team work is employed.
Throughout the feasibility and development process, both the marketing manager and development engineer are focused together on the process to co-develop realistic requirements, meet with any product champion(s) for further input as well as Key Opinion Leaders (KOL’s), and monitor all aspects that the organization updated on the projects’ progress.
During the later stages of the development process when the design of the product(s) has been stabilized, any mechanical or other testing needed to verify the device will work as it was intended to do.
Interfacing with the assigned packaging engineering will take place at several points in the development phase as soon as realistic prototypes can be made to initiate the types of testing the packaging engineer needs to complete.
The design engineer will also work with the labeling, marketing, and regulatory team members to assist with the regulatory process and review any claims in the marketing literature.
Lastly, but very important, the development engineer should be concurrently working closely with their manufacturing and quality counterparts to ensure the device(s) can be manufactured with high quality and reasonable cost expectations. Re-orders are the mainstay of any business. If the product is designed with too tight of tolerances, or mating parts don’t work together properly, or proper validations were not completed to ‘save time’ creating an out of control manufacturing process, you have problems. Disruptions early in any product launch will quickly dim the lights of high satisfaction and turn a potentially great product (line) into a mediocre one. No second chances to re-light the candles of confidence once the flame is gone.
Choose wisely for your upcoming development projects, understanding that only finished projects have a chance to increase revenue and make customers happy, but poorly executed projects make everyone unhappy!