Author Archives: Joe Arnone

Joe Arnone

Joe is an accomplished product development, operations, and business leader with particular expertise in the delivery of captivating product experiences to the connected consumer.

Benefits of Low Volume Build and Manufacturing

Speed matters. Quality matters. Cost matters. Risk matters. But how do you tick all of these boxes while still delivering on what your customers really want? Your customers are demanding new products at a pace which is getting hard to manage. Your manufacturing costs are increasing and it’s getting more challenging to maintain quality control. In fact, there are times when you’re not even convinced that what you’re manufacturing is what your customers really want.

It really feels as though you’re in a race that has no finish line. So what are you supposed to do? Well, how about shifting your mindset from the traditional domain of high volume manufacturing to low volume manufacturing. Yes, traditionally high volume manufacturing was the most economical choice, but how well does it deliver on speed, risk management, and quality control. High volume manufacturing forces you to make a lot of trade-off for the sake of cost.

This is why we want you to think about and move forward with low volume manufacturing. Thanks to the boom in digital technology, low volume manufacturing truly is an option for every enterprise, regardless of production numbers and timelines. Low volume manufacturing is all about diminishing risk, driving speed to market, and ensuring top quality. So what’s holding you back?

Think about how rewarding it would be for you and your customers to deliver exactly what they want, when they want it – all at a cost that is affordable for everyone. This is what low volume manufacturing with the right partner can give you.

Save Your Money and Your Innovation Pipeline
We get it, your margins are tight, particularly when it comes to keeping up with the pace-of-change in the market. You’re trying to manage resource costs while delivering a product on-time and with a price point that works for you and your customers. This isn’t easy. So we understand that rethinking your manufacturing processes and methodology can be a scary prospect.

This is exactly why want to you take advantage of low volume manufacturing. There is real opportunity for cost savings by utilizing Radius experts to take over the hard work of getting  innovation prototypes into production, while keeping innovation team talents and resources on more development, engineering, or pipeline for future products.

The key to understanding how and why low volume manufacturing can be your game-changer is in realizing that more is not necessarily better. We’ve been taught that our margins drop with higher numbers. But what about the cost and loss that comes when you discover that your 500,000 order is wrong – the color is off, the materials are faulty, and it was delivered too late. Now, you’re stuck with 500,000 pieces of product that no one wants (not even you).

Reframe this with a low volume manufacturing mindset. Perhaps you’re creating a new product line or adding a new feature to an existing product, and you’re not sure how well received it will be. With low volume manufacturing you can manufacture a small number of pieces and use these to validate your design, your materials, and your industry analysis. All at a much lower overhead cost in manufacturing and in wasted product.

Maintain Design Freedom
It’s not easy to innovate and change your design or materials. This all comes down to how your products are manufactured. Likely in the early days of your company and product line, you worked with an expensive manufacturer who created a set of molds for your products – and these are the molds you’re still using today. This manufacturing legacy is holding you back.

Think of how much change we’ve experienced in just the past five years in digital technology. 3D printers, the cloud, IoT, and industry 4.0 have opened up so many doors for how you think about, design, prototype, produce, and manufacture. Gone are the rigid inflexible molds – replaced with design, production, and manufacturing flexibility.

With rapid prototyping and 3D printing you can make changes on-the-fly, better respond to customer feedback, quickly adjust for new materials, and fix design flaw before they become endemic. This all comes down to giving you less waste, better products, smarter design, and greater efficiencies.

Get to Market Faster
Quick, check the calendar – how much time have you allotted for idea to design to manufacture to market? We’re assuming six to 12 months. A lifetime for a company, brand, and product line. You cannot afford to wait 12 months to find out if your customers want the product you’re waiting on.

You need to get to market first. Not only do you need to be first, you need to deliver a quality product at a market-correct price. This is not going to happen with your high volume manufacturing limiters. A move to low volume manufacturing allows you to manufacture a smaller quality of products much much faster.

Not only do you beat your competitors to market but you do it at reduced costs with a better product – and much less risk. Your customers are happier, they have the product they want when they want it. In fact, you now have the capability to respond to the latest trends and fads in your industry – your brand benefits and you don’t have shelves packed with outdated expensive product that no one wants.

Make the Leap from Prototype Faster and Better
One of the biggest challenges in any industry is in knowing what is going to catch-on. You can do all the industry analysis and surveys you want and still come up short. Remember, this is part of what we do (human factors and industry analysis), and we understand how fickle your customers and potential customers can be. All it takes is one viral social media post or review, and the next-greatest thing quickly becomes yesterday’s news.

This is why we want you to take advantage of low volume manufacturing. Get your product in front of your potential customers, get feedback, get design analysis, and find out if it meets the industry standards. Once you’ve validated your prototype, you can then quickly make the leap to full-blown product. You’ve got the speed, the design capabilities, and manufacturing strength to quickly meet the demands of your customers. Gone are the days of waiting and waiting to see your prototype move forward.

Bridging Your Gaps
We know what you’re thinking – great, but how I am I supposed to make this transition from high volume to low volume manufacturing? We know how challenging it is to get access to Tier 1 manufacturing capabilities and experience. We also don’t want you to be forced to work with Tier 2 and 3 manufacturers.

This is where Radius comes in. We have the suite of capabilities, experience, manufacturing resources, and knowledge to allow you to bridge your gaps. You focus on doing what you do best and we work with you to manufacture the best possible product faster and better.

We give the access to Tier 1 capabilities at a fraction of the cost and headache. Know that you’re working with a team that allows you to realize your products at the right pace and scale to succeed in the market. In fact, we’ll be with you every step of the process, making you wonder why you waited so long to switch from high volume to low volume manufacturing.

Five Steps to Low Volume Build Nirvana

Previously I talked about the importance of low volume manufacturing as a key bridge between design and volume production. It may seem obvious, but few manufacturers have been able to successfully master the manufacturing trifecta of prototype, low volume build, and global mass production!

I talked about why low volume build is so important in my last blog, but for those that didn’t read it (shame on you), this is why I think it is an essential link from research to realization.

Getting from design to prototype is one thing, but getting that prototype into ‘manufacturing’ is quite another. Phase one of this is low volume manufacturing, what I referred to as the missing link. It is production, but it isn’t mass production. It’s certainly not prototyping because it is carried out with the same rigorous processes that will flow into mass production when the product is launched. To be clear this is quite different to NPI, or New Product Introduction, where a product is walked through the processes that will eventually mass produce it. Low volume build and manufacturing could be a pilot build prior to volume, a targeted custom build for a specific market, or simply a product that isn’t destined for high volume, like professional audio equipment or retail fixtures.

Having established its importance, what are the key steps to success in low volume build? Here are my top five:

1.) Connecting the Digital Thread
Getting each and every stage of the research to realization process right is essential and for that to happen data has to flow seamlessly through every process. The digital thread does just that, connecting design data to manufacturing data and to the supply chain. Jabil has more than half a century of expertise in supply chain and manufacturing, so connecting that experience and the global footprint and the more than 100,000 employees needs a robust digital thread and the commitment of every part of the business to a full digital transformation. Data enables agility, and manufacturing agility is one of the key elements that enable brands to create life changing products.

2.) Concurrent Design
It’s easy to see the whole process of bringing a product to market as consecutive steps from idea to the final delivery of the product to the user, but a serial approach can slow things down. Speed has never been more important to the innovation process. Thinking ahead is essential to deliver ideas quickly to demanding and impatient consumers, and before the competition. The process should be seen as parallel or concurrent disciplines that impact upon each other. For example, the design needs to interact with the supply chain to ensure that the parts specified can be obtained reliably and at the right price.

3.) Connecting Diverse Teams with Domain Expertise
Much as connecting the processes and data is important, what really sparks magic is connecting people. At every stage, we like to bring diverse teams together that can all bring something special to the party. For many of the designers at Radius this is particularly exciting when we need domain expertise, like optics, RF engineering or additive manufacturing. The hundreds of engineers in the Jabil team with deep domain knowledge and experience allow Radius design engineers to utilize the very latest techniques and technologies. Some have likened it to being a kid in a candy store! What is clear is that it offers Radius designers a unique insight into technology and manufacturability.

4.) Using Leading Edge Technology
With the digital revolution comes all kinds of enabling technologies. We call these digital building blocks, and we use them throughout our design process and throughout the entire product lifecycle. This is another area where we’re lucky enough to leverage the broader Jabil family. It isn’t enough to understand and use techniques like 3D Printing, we need to know their limitations, where they can be applied robustly and where they are economically appropriate. Real engineering rigor is needed to ensure new technologies work at the design, prototype, NPI, low volume build, and mass production phases. Another area where five decades of applying and introducing new technologies to manufacturing is valuable.

As well as delivering many prototype iterations quickly and accelerating the design process, Additive Manufacturing (AM), or 3D Printing, is finding its way into high volume manufacturing, particularly when an element of mass customization is part of the value proposition.

AM is just one example of the many technologies used. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is finding its way into our daily life both at home and at work. This will impact upon the way we design and the way we manufacture. Augmented Reality allows us to view designs in a virtual world, right from the CAD data and across the world. We are starting to develop digital twins of products, processes and even factories that will help us simulate the user experience, volume production and supply chain disruption. And our world is becoming augmented by machines, robots and ever more complex automation.

5.) Supply Chain Orchestration
If the supply chain breaks down, all the good work done in design, development and prototyping is for naught! It doesn’t matter how wonderful our idea or design is, if we can’t deliver, the product will fail. This is as true in low volume build as it is in mass production. Long lead time components, single sourced parts or supply chain risk can all damage a product’s route to the consumer, not to mention the ability for the product to make money.

Supply chain orchestration starts early and continues throughout that whole product lifecycle. It must have the flexibility and agility to mitigate risk, absorb changes in volumes and manage rapid product introduction when that is required. Experience here is essential, as is having the right tool. Jabil created their own supply chain suite, InControl, which utilizes the digital thread to connect and manage complex supply chains.

Foundations, Building Blocks, and More
Get the foundations right and connect the right digital building block and something very special can be created and delivered at the right quality and the right price. Each of the elements above are as essential as the other. We start with a foundation of experience, manufacturing agility, and design expertise and use the digital thread to connect the building blocks that go on top of that. We then add more building blocks of technology domain expertise to create a unique structure that delivers all the way from research to realization.

Connecting Innovation to Mass Production – Is Low Volume Build the Missing Link?

The key word here is ‘connecting’. If we don’t connect the whole process then we risk having to repeat steps, or worse still, missing key steps completely. Every part of an agile manufacturing strategy contributes to the success of any product lifecycle. We know it all starts with that lightbulb moment, that eureka in the bath, that sketch on the back of a napkin at a restaurant; but how does it reach the final consumer as a robust, volume produced product that serves the market and makes money for the innovator?

There are a whole lot of steps from ideation to fruition, from research to realization, but let’s focus here on that grey area between prototype and mass production. The area of low volume build, one of the most underestimated areas in terms of importance.

Clearly everything needs to be connected and when it isn’t, risk factors multiply very quickly. Passing ideas, designs, and manufacturing data from place to place can be like playing the telephone game. Things can go very wrong because of simple errors in data. What’s more, passing all of this data from person to person can be a slow process, as each party evaluates the data to ensure they get the best from their own systems and processes. Slow is not what is needed in new product introduction. Fast is the order of the day if you don’t want to risk losing your first-to-market advantage, or disappointing your crowdfunding customers.

The connection between each part of the process is the digital thread, a thread of data that connects every element with data that can be utilized up and down the value chain as well as throughout the supply chain. Digitization is disrupting every industry with design and manufacturing being no different. In fact, the whole process of bringing an idea to market is impacted by the digital revolution. Smarter design techniques that use Augmented Reality (AR) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) are playing an increasingly important role. Additive Manufacturing (AM), and automation/robotics are finding their way into prototyping and manufacturing. And Smart Factory, or Industry 4.0 solutions, are bringing terms like digital twin into the everyday vocabulary of production engineers, all contributing to a more agile manufacturing ecosystem that provides the flexibility brands need.

As the process of bringing a product to market accelerates, so do we find cracks appearing in the old model of using one company to ideate and design, another to prototype and manufacture the first few batches, and a third to take the product to economic volume. The connection is no longer sufficiently robust or agile to deal with the complexity of the products or of the sophistication and demands of the consumer. What is needed is a low volume build solution that lives seamlessly between the design and volume manufacturing.

Low volume build should be connected seamlessly via the digital thread with every part of the product lifecycle. Once that eureka moment is taken from the paper napkin to the design company, it needs to be seamlessly connecting with development, prototyping, low volume build, supply chain, and mass production. All of these elements are part of a complex ecosystem that thrives on data and exists to benefit the final product. Every element is codependent. Designers must understand the impact of device selection on the supply chain, of material selection on the manufacturing process, of styling on the final packaging, and a whole lot more.

Beyond the connection of data, and equally important, is the connection of people. As well as many moving parts, this ecosystem is full of people and they need to be able to communicate with each other and share their domain expertise quickly and easily, looking back and forth through different iterations, sharing ideas to create the perfect solution. Having optics engineers, RF designers, additive manufacturing experts, automation gurus, packaging innovators, all working together is a powerful tool to ensure that the consumer gets the right solution.

All of this needs to occur concurrently. If we look at ideation, design, prototype, low volume build, and mass production as independent steps we are doing our idea and our consumers a disservice. A concurrent approach ensures that mass production and the supply chain are ready to ramp when needed and that none of the earlier steps get in the way of a smooth and successful product launch and high volume market adoption. A great idea, no matter how well marketed, can fail if the product lifecycle is not well managed and the manufacturing process is not sufficiently agile.

Yes, a great idea and product design is essential. And yes, the right volume production solution will deliver that to your eager user. But never underestimate the value of exceptional low volume build, connecting every part of the product lifecycle with a strong digital thread.

Learn more about our Low Volume Build & Manufacturing solution or connect with us to start talking about your project today!

Manufacturing – You’ve Come a Long Way

So often we take for granted the technologies we’re using today and forget how far we have come in such a short period of time. Manufacturing is an area which has experienced rapid growth and change, particularly in the domain of rapid prototyping.

Today, we enjoy the benefits and advantages that rapid prototyping brings to new product development, but we need to remember that it’s only been since the 1980s that this level of prototyping became an accepted approach in the manufacturing process.

Now, in a relatively short period of time, an approach that was used by some outliers has paved the way for new de facto standards in how best to approach new product design realization, manufacturing, testing, research, and ultimately productization.

It’s impossible to know where we will be in five or 10 years with rapid prototyping and technologies such as 3D printing and modular manufacturing. However, we do know that this is one of the most fascinating and critical aspects of the manufacturing and productization process. As costs, time, and resources become even more precious, the ability to move from compelling concept to product quickly and efficiently will be even more of a game changer.

Rapid Prototyping and Your Concept
Rapid prototyping can be utilized at any stage of the development process, from early research through stages of pre-production. Building iterative, low-fidelity prototypes early in the product development lifecycle process can be a powerful tool to help speed and gain clarity on concept decisions, design directions, hands on user experience insights, design intent validation, latent feature discovery, and more. To really deliver on your concept and vision, be sure to take advantage of our expertise in:

  • Digital/Physical Prototyping
  • 3D Printing Technology
  • CT Scanning Technology
  • CNC Machines
  • Rapid Tooling
  • Full Low Volume Assembly

The Proof is in the Prototype
In the 1970s and likely before, designers and forward-thinkers were using technologies such as paper topographical maps, photosculpture, advanced use and placement of cameras, and polymerization to build models. This intersection of technologies is what has brought us to where we are today.

With what is now considered rather basic or rudimentary techniques, which involved a great deal of time, cost, and labor, engineers and developers recognized the value of seeing the concept in real-life before rushing into production.

It is the drive and commitment to finding better ways to design, build, test, analyze, and ultimately deliver a better product that has pushed the advances we are using today.

Hardware development relies on proven and tested iterative rapid prototyping from start-to-finish using methods such as:

  • Napkin sketch
  • Ergonomic modeling
  • Works-like modeling
  • Works-like/Looks-like/Feels-like modeling
  • Iterative pre-production low volume Alpha prototyping
  • EVT/DVT build and test

You also need to know that your prototype is going to work. Making your prototype works is crucial to developing a compelling offering in the marketplace. This is where the Radius team works with you to ensure that you can deliver on this proof of concept with our advanced use of:

  • 3D Printing
  • Machining
  • Zund Digital Cutter
  • Laser Cutter
  • Urethane Casing
  • Thermoforming
  • Welding
  • PCBs

These new prototype methods allow us to move at a faster pace through product development and allow us to use higher fidelity tools to hone in on consumer needs while offering a better user experience much earlier in the process. This actually lowers overall product development costs, speeds transfer to higher volume manufacturing, and gets a more compelling product to the marketplace to meet immediate consumer needs.

Rapid iterative prototyping is a tool that can be applied in various forms from research through early production.

This is the real future of manufacturing and we’re leveraging the advantage of world-class, award-winning, cross-functional, and cross-cultural talent with customer relationship and project management specialists and a worldwide quality management system all under one roof with the latest state-of-the-art equipment.

INNOVATION. REALIZED. RAPIDLY.

We don’t know where manufacturing and rapid prototyping will be in 10 years, but we know that we’ll be there pushing boundaries and setting the standards that will continue to push manufacturing forward.

With the faster and more accurate prototyping tools we have available today, we are able to bring the power of prototyping to help us better uncover and refine user needs, create more compelling user experiences, and craft better-designed products. This all leads into Accelerated Product Introduction (API) that not only delivers faster to the marketplace, but also comes with the added confidence that you’re delivering the right product at the right time.