When creating new products, having an engineering mindset is essential. It’s not enough to come up with an idea and hope that it will work – you need to be able to take your idea and turn it into a reality. This involves planning, testing, and iterating until you have a product that meets your customer’s needs. In this blog post, we will discuss four ways how having an engineering mindset can help you create new products.
Plans Are Great, but the Execution Is Everything
Many engineers work with some documentation. Whether it’s a design document or an instruction manual for building the product, for instance, when building a car or anything that requires motion, the engineer must incorporate the kinematic formula to avoid motion sickness in the passengers. Even when they’re just making something for fun, they will still want to understand how it works and build another if they break it!
When creating a new product or service, you need to have some documentation so that future employees and contractors know what they’re building and how it should work. This means that your documentation needs to be accurate and concise enough for someone else to understand and reproduce your work.
However, documentation only gets you so far. You will still need to build out the product and test it before making any changes. This is where having an engineering mindset comes in handy – as an engineer, they know that changes aren’t made until there’s something to analyze and test.
To do this, you will need to conduct a test and record your results. In the case of engineering, this might be a stress test or a motion simulation. In the case of your new product, it could mean that you create a prototype that customers test before going into full production. Moreover, engineers must perform tests before moving forward with a product. The earlier the test, the fewer holes in the design and the more time they have to fix it. Rushing into testing will lead you to build something that doesn’t work well or fails horribly.
Iteration is Key
No matter what type of product you’re building, there will likely be multiple iterations before the final version. Even though the frame and engine might not change, cars go through many iterations before they are released to the public, even though the frame and engine might not change. When creating new products, your product will go through several design phases before it’s ready for the market, including testing, consultations with customers to see what they want, and revisions.
Engineers have to iterate through their products as well. Many of the greatest engineering minds repeat their creations several times before release. For instance, inventor Nikola Tesla built his famous coil seven times before perfecting it. In his autobiography, Tesla said, “I do not rush into actual work. When I get an idea, I start building it up in my imagination. I change the construction, make improvements and operate the device in my mind.” Edison’s lightbulb went through over 1,000 iterations before it was the right shape and brightness!
Just like in engineering, when you’re creating a new product, your product is going to need multiple iterations before it’s ready for production. You must document these changes and make sure they are easily reproduced by following step-by-step instructions.
Small Changes Can Have Big Impacts
During the engineering process, there will likely be small changes that can impact your entire design. You might find out your wheel well is too big to fit into the frame, or you may realize that you need a few more bolts for everything to line up correctly. When designing new products, you might find that a slight change in the functionality of your product can have a significant impact on customer satisfaction or conversions. This is why it’s crucial to test each iteration of your design and continue to follow up with users throughout the entire process. You ensure that you’re creating the absolute best version of your product by doing so.
Engineers are often faced with making small changes that have a large impact on their design. For instance, when the Apollo 13 module malfunctioned on its way to the moon, engineers could make an emergency landing by changing only one variable in the design – how much battery power was left.
Another example of a small change leading to an impact is the invention of the nickel-iron battery by Waldemar Jungne. He had initially made his battery with lithium, but this caused the electrolyte (a liquid that conducts electricity within a cell) to evaporate and become unusable quickly. So he switched out one material for another and found that his new design was much more effective.
Your Idea Isn’t Always What Your Customers Want
Engineers are typically very creative. They come up with different ideas about solving problems or improving functionality, but that doesn’t always mean the idea will work for customers. It’s essential when creating new products to stay in touch with your users and get their feedback throughout the entire process. Engineers may know what they need to do, but getting customer feedback is vital to create the best product possible.
For example, Apple is known for its aesthetically pleasing products. However, the iPhone wasn’t always this way. In 2005 Apple released the first iPhone, and it had a candy-bar design with a small LCD screen on the front and only four buttons on the sides. Over time, Apple kept getting feedback from customers on ways to improve the functionality and usability of the phone. As a result, they added a front-facing camera, an app store, and more external buttons for ease of use.
Engineers should always keep the idea in mind, but it may take several iterations before you can create your final product. Stay in touch with your users throughout the process to collect feedback about their needs and wants so that you can make the best possible product for them.
To conclude, engineering is a mindset that helps you approach all kinds of problems in life, not just problems in your field. Thinking like an engineer when creating new products will help you iterate on your current product and continuously improve upon it. Remember the 3 R’s: Reduce risk with testing, Repeatability through documentation, and Replication so that you can produce your product quickly and easily for large-scale production.
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