We know the process of developing a product is so much more than good design. Our robust product development process, honed through decades of practical application, ensures that the development process — including schedule and budget — is controlled, that your business requirements are met, and that it results in the most optimal design.
Our exclusive transferless design process reduces the product lifecycle by 6-9 months and lets you get products to market sooner. We do this by involving our manufacturing team in early phase development review meetings, and they in turn take action items to the supply chain early on to minimize late-in-development issues. This integration of design and manufacturing lets us eliminate schedule delays by pulling New Product Introduction (NPI) tasks forward into the development process while also ensuring exceptional quality from the first product to the last.
We use a phased development process which provides identifiable milestones and deliverables. It also includes discrete points to assess the project and make any needed adjustments to ensure it’s on track to meet your business goals. At the end of each phase, we turn all work product over to you, so you’ll have in-hand quantifiable results that validate the resources and budget expended.
Our development process is tailored to every project, so the number of phases and their goals may be modified to fit your project needs. Even if we’ll only be working with you on a single phase of your development process, we’ll likely view it internally as a complete project of two or more phases.
Phase 0 is the most critical phase of any project — so much so we dedicated an entire newsletter to it. This Planning and Risk Assessment phase allows us to properly scope your project, start manufacturing plan development, identify risks and generate mitigation plans, and lay out your project roadmap.
Phase 1 is traditionally called a Breadboard phase, but it’s more accurately described as a Risk Mitigation phase at Lathrop. Whether your project risks are related to technical feasibility, aggressive cost of goods, or development of a novel consumable, we’ve learned through experience that the most efficient use of resources is to mitigate these risks quickly — before expending significant effort on lower-risk engineering tasks that may be impacted by them. During this phase we also start manufacturing reviews that include early DFM/DFA and supply chain development for critical components.
Phase 1 may include developing functional breadboards, transferring manual processes to an automated system to assess process quality, or evaluating component or enclosure tradeoffs to meet cost targets.
The Engineering Design phase is where our team focuses on the detailed part of the design, component selection, schematics, and technical analysis that result in a complete, ready-to-build design. In other development processes, this can be one of the longest phases as designers are often making complex choices that impact other aspects of the design, which requires learning and iteration. However, with Lathrop’s process, Phase 2 tends to be one of the shortest as we’ve already resolved all the unknowns in Phase 1. This lets our engineers focus on design execution rather than concept issues.
We also continue manufacturing reviews for DFM and DFA, and also start DFS and DFT. Key vendors for prototypes are identified along with tooling estimates, and specification starts on early assembly tool and test fixtures.
Phases 3 and 4
Lathrop will often tailor the Engineering Prototype and Alpha Prototype phases during Phase 0 to meet the needs of your project. Because we’ve resolved all technical risks in Phase 1 with breadboards, our Phase 3 also tends to be significantly different than other development processes. Depending on the goals identified in Phase 0, our breadboards may encompass the entire function of the product, which often equate to prototypes in other organizations. Lathrop’s definition of an Engineering Prototype is a product that looks and functions exactly like the finished product. These mature prototypes can be used not only for design verification, but also for user and clinical validation.
Alpha Prototypes differ from Engineering Prototypes in that they include the use of prototype manufacturing processes for enclosures and other custom parts: machining vs. casting; SLA vs. custom molding, etc. Depending on your intended use of engineering prototypes, full verification may occur in Phase 3 or Phase 4.
In Phase 3 we also start manufacturing assembly training and early vPoke development along with assembly tool and test fixture fabrication and assembly. Because our unique transferless design to manufacturing process starts in Phase 0, we’re able to start pilot manufacturing in Phase 4, eliminating the typical Phase 5 transfer to manufacturing completely.