Paul Dunleavy, Vice President of Engineering, Cogmedix

Time to market, product performance and product cost are all important considerations in new product development.  However, product scalability for product line extension should also be considered.  A well thought out product platform design strategy enables fast product iterations and reaction to rapidly changing market opportunities.  This strategy may be a growth engine for your business through faster and more frequent new product introductions!  

Platform development is applicable to a broad range of technologies and applications.  The common feature of all platforms is that they are building blocks of common or core technology.  Platform building blocks can be expanded upon and utilized across multiple product lines.  

How do you design platform technology?  The first step is to identify potential future market applications that your technology can address.  Then determine the core building blocks that can be carried over to the new application.  These core building blocks are your primary platform technologies.  After identifying the core platform technologies, determine what has to change beyond the platform to expand into new applications.  Somewhere in between the core platform and the new expansion should be a platform interface.  

Where possible, product platforms should be designed in a modular manner to take full advantage of platform benefits.  As an example, a standardized car engine can be designed as a platform to be used across multiple automobile models.  To be successful, the engine should be modular and compatible across multiple car chassis.  The engine mounts and chassis interface can be considered a mechanical platform interface where compatibility is important.  

Another important consideration is to adequately specify and design the platform performance such that it meets the known future application needs.  Let’s return again to the car engine example. If the car company intends to expand into the luxury car market, the engine power performance must be sufficiently sized to power the potentially heavier luxury car chassis.

Platform development is very much applicable to medical devices.  Medical device companies face many of the same challenges of new product development as other industries. However, the medical device industry is further challenged with regulatory hurdles as part of new product development.  Future product line extensions benefit from modular platforms that have already gone through regulatory evaluation such as product safety testing. Platforms provide next generation product development acceleration, and reduced development time, risks and costs.  Modular platforms that are shared across multiple product lines may also benefit from economies of scale.  

Admittedly, platform technology may not be applicable to your particular application.  It should, however, be a consideration when developing a new product development strategy.  It may become a growth engine for your business!