7 Ways to Accelerate Time To Market of Industrial Scale Manufactured Products

Applying Agile Software Product Development Principles To Physical Product Development

Agile methodologies have long been associated with software development, but their application in the hardware manufacturing realm is gaining recognition. Since 2016, Innovel has been working with large equipment manufacturers to successfully bring Agile and Scrum principles into the physical product development domain. While the core principles of Agility remain the same, there are distinct differences between Agile in software and Agile in hardware product development. In this article, we will explore the key benefits of Agile in both domains and highlight the differences that make Agile a game-changer in the manufacturing of physical products.

Agile in Software Development:

In software development, Agile methodologies have revolutionized the industry, offering numerous benefits that enhance productivity and customer satisfaction. Key characteristics of Agile in software development include:

  1. Iterative and Incremental Development:

Agile software teams embrace short cycles to deliver incremental value to customers. Commercial products are continually updated throughout their lifecycle.  This iterative approach allows for frequent feedback loops, enabling the rapid incorporation of new customer requirements and changing market needs.

  1. Flexibility and Adaptability:

Agile software development optimizes the product development organization for flexibility and adaptability to respond to evolving customer demands. Development organizations can reprioritize work, adjust requirements, and accommodate changes during each two to four week cycle, enabling the delivery of high-quality software that meets evolving customer expectations.

  1. Collaborative and Cross-functional Teams:

Agile software teams are known for their collaborative nature. Cross-functional teams, including analysts, designers, developers, testers, and product managers work together closely throughout the development process. Regular communication, daily sync meetings, and continuous collaboration drive efficiency and promote a shared ownership of the product goals.

Agile in Hardware Product Development:

Applying Agile principles to hardware product development presents unique challenges and opportunities. While many aspects of Agile (above) translate directly, others require adaptation to fit the physical product’s manufacturing centric environment. Here are key characteristics of Agile in hardware product development:

  1. Product Management Prioritization:

In both software and hardware contexts, Product Managers work directly with customers and product development teams to prioritize the order of work. This ensures that the most critical issues are addressed first. Agile hardware engineering teams work on tasks in a different order than a traditional bill of materials approach, taking into account factors such as product risk, business value, dependencies, material costs, effort required, quality, and impact on the customer.

  1. Rapid Prototyping and Testing:

Agile hardware development emphasizes the importance of rapid prototyping and testing. Teams create physical prototypes early in the process to validate concepts, gather feedback, and iterate on designs swiftly. Performance simulations (FEA), Green sand casting, 3D printing, silicon injection molds, bench testing and test mules enable engineering to identify and address issues early on, resulting in improved product quality and reduced time-to-market. The concept of “first build” is replaced with regular iteration on the physical product.

  1. Supply Chain Considerations:

Unlike software development, hardware product development must navigate the complexities of the supply chain. Agile hardware teams collaborate closely with suppliers to ensure timely availability of components and materials. Agile hardware teams are empowered to directly procure small batches of parts quickly to reduce development delays. This approach bypasses the standard procurement process with longer negotiations and the goal of lowest price per part. Improving the response time and resiliency of the supply chain is crucial for maintaining agility in hardware development.

  1. Integration of Design and Manufacturing:

Agile hardware development integrates manufacturing into the design process. Collaboration between design and manufacturing engineers as designs are created allows for fast feedback on the manufacturability of designs before the designs are final. This collaboration enables manufacturing engineering to work in parallel with the design teams. Similarly, design engineers often work hands-on with prototypes alongside technicians and manufacturing engineers. This approach reduces lead times, increases empathy across different job roles and creates a more holistic approach to product development.

While Agile methodologies originated in software development, their application in hardware product development is gaining traction. Agile in software development emphasizes iterative delivery, adaptability, and collaboration. Agile in hardware development combines these principles with rapid prototyping, supply chain management, and the integration of design and manufacturing. By embracing Agile in hardware, manufacturers can deliver innovative, high-quality physical products that better meet customer expectations in today’s fast-paced market.

If you are interested in learning more about bringing Agile into your organization, please contact our team at Innovel to book a chat! You can also browse our Agile transformation solutions and process here.

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