In his classic book “Crossing the Chasm” (Harper Collins, 1991), Geoffrey Moore discusses the challenges in bridging the gap between the early adopters of innovative technologies and the early majority. While visionary customers are generally receptive to a cool new technology and willing to take a risk on it, it requires a targeted marketing strategy to get the mainstream customers to adopt the new technology. This chasm represents a discontinuity in the product lifecycle and a transition from product to market oriented strategies. A similar chasm exists in the new product development process between lab-scale or bench-top Proof-of-Concept (POC) units and prototypes that are precursors to full-scale Production.
Early Stage Development
Most companies today follow some kind of stage-gate product development process from Discovery to Concept to Feasibility to Development to Pre-production and finally to full-scale Production. Start-up companies as well as R&D organizations within large companies are generally adept at utilizing their core competencies to evolve new ideas into tangible product concepts and building lab-scale units to demonstrate their feasibility.
The focus of early-stage development effort is to prove that the concept meets the target (scaled) performance specifications. In parallel, the Marketing team typically estimates a hockey-stick growth curve with an attractive Return on Investment (ROI). The implicit assumptions are that this product will penetrate the market at a given price point with a manufacturing cost structure that allows attractive margins. This enables the development team to get additional resources from investors or upper management to continue the product development project. Life is good……..so far.
The Development Chasm
Now the development team is challenged with evolving this POC into a manufacturable and cost-effective design and prototype that can be transferred to volume Production. This is a different type of development effort often requiring different skill sets and experience that are likely to be outside the core competence of the original development team. It may not be efficient or even possible or simply not professionally rewarding for the same team to continue the development all the way to Production.
This is the point at which good POCs can fall into the development chasm, unless there is a smooth transfer to a team that can focus on Design for Manufacturability (DFM) and Cost Reduction to create the entire package comprising the total system and associated documentation that can be transitioned to volume production.
Consider the example of a typical thin-film deposition process used in semiconductor wafer manufacturing. The early stage development of a new deposition chamber for larger size wafers with improved uniformity and throughput, may involve a team of Ph.D.s doing computational fluid dynamics and testing the results on a flexible lab-scale system. Continuing this development to Production will involve a team of mechanical and electrical equipment design engineers to develop the individual sub-assemblies such as wafer transport, gas handling, deposition chamber, heater, exhaust and power distribution, as well as their integration into a robust system that meets performance, cost and schedule requirements. The engineers will also have to develop a complete documentation package that can be handed off to manufacturing.
DCI can help
The new team to bridge the development chasm is best made up of professionals both internal and external to the company. The benefits of an external partner such as DCI are:
• Certainty and speed: reduced time to market
• Access to a team with broad equipment design experience across multiple industries
• Leverage core strengths of the internal team across a larger, on-demand resource
• Reduced fixed costs
• Reduced risk
• Access to a global, quick-turn and cost-effective supply chain
• Seamless transition to contract manufacturing at Columbia Tech
The following are specific areas where DCI can help to successfully cross the development chasm:
1. Design for Manufacturability(DFM): Starting with the POC drawings and schematics, DCI engineers will develop alternative concepts for the mechanical and electrical sub-systems and their integration. DCI will jointly select the optimum concept with the client based on feasibility testing, risk assessment and manufacturability. To facilitate ease of assembly, careful attention is paid to manufacturing methods (poka-yoke), modular designs (standardized interfaces), design rules (tolerance stack-ups), materials of construction (metal vs. plastic), fixturing and tooling.
2. Design for Cost: A substantial portion of a product’s cost is determined by design decisions. Right from the Concept Phase, DCI will assess off-the-shelf commercial versus custom fabricated components and sub-systems and create a costed Bill of Materials (BOM). The BOM is refined through the Design phase with joint exploration of lower cost design alternatives. The Coghlin Companies maintain a Best in Class, tiered network of suppliers of commercial and custom parts to get the best price, delivery and quality.
3. System Integration: In the earlier example of the thin-film deposition process for semiconductor wafer manufacturing, the client’s IP is in the deposition chamber. However, to enable successful product development, DCI can assume responsibility for the design of the supporting sub-systems such as power distribution and gas handling and their integration with the deposition chamber.
4. Prototyping: DCI’s skilled engineering technicians can assemble alpha and beta prototype systems based on engineering-level documentation to enable field testing and get feedback to incorporate into an iterated design. This provides valuable validation of the new product with early adopters before product launch.
5. Documentation: A key deliverable from DCI is a complete documentation package that can be handed off to Columbia Tech for manufacturing. It includes the BOM, specifications, solid drawings of each sub-assembly, assembly drawings, electrical schematics, PCB Gerber files and cable drawings. It may also include operating procedures and test plan.
6. Change Management: Changes are inevitable in a development project and DCI can provide guidance on their trade-offs with schedule and cost. DCI’s rigorous Engineering Change Order (ECO) process maintains traceability of changes and ensures that all relevant documents are appropriately changed and manufacturing has the most up-to-date documents.
With DCI as a valued partner, client companies can successfully cross the chasm and develop a manufacturable and cost-effective design and prototype that can be transferred to volume Production.
Director of Business and Customer Development