The six phases of the generic development process

The generic product development process consists of six phases, as illustrated in
Exhibit 2-2. The process begins with a planning phase, which is the link to advanced research and technology development activities. The output of the planning phase is the project's mission statement, which is the input required to begin the concept development phase and which serves as a guide to the development team. The conclusion of the product development process is the product launch, at which time the product becomes available for purchase in the marketplace. One way to think about the development process is as the initial creation of a wide set of alternative product concepts and then the subsequent narrowing of alternatives and increasing specification of the product until the product can be reliably and repeatably produced by the production system. Note that most of the phases of development are defined in terms of the state of the product, although the production process and marketing plans, among other tangible outputs, are also evolving as development progresses.

Another way to think about the development process is as an information-processing system. The process begins with inputs such as the corporate objectives and the capabilities of available technologies, product platforms, and production systems. Various activities process the development information, formulating specifications, concepts, and design details. The process concludes when all the information required to support production and sales has been created and communicated.

A third way to think about the development process is as a risk management system. In the early phases of product development, various risks are identified and prioritized. As the process progresses, risks are reduced as the key uncertainties are eliminated and the functions of the product are validated. When the process is completed, the team should have substantial confidence that the product will work correctly and be well received by the market.
Exhibit 2-2 also identifies the key activities and responsibilities of the different functions of the organization during each development phase. Because of their continuous involvement in the process, we choose to articulate the roles of marketing, design, and  manufacturing. Representatives from other functions, such as research, finance, field service, and sales, also play key roles at particular points in the process.

The six phases of the generic development process are:
o. Planning: The planning activity is often referred to as "phase zero" since it precedes the project approval and launch of the actual product development process. This phase begins with corporate strategy and includes assessment of technology developments and market objectives. The output of the planning phase is the project mission statement, which specifies the target market for the product, business goals, key assumptions, and constraints. Chapter 3, Product Planning, presents a discussion of this planning process.

1. Concept development:
In the concept development phase, the needs of the target market are identified, alternative product concepts are generated and evaluated, and one or more concepts are selected for further development and testing. A concept is a description of the form, function, and features of a product and is usually accompanied by a set of specifications, an analysis of competitive products, and an economic  justification of the project. This book presents several detailed methods for the concept development phase (Chapters 4-8). We expand this phase into each of its constitutive activities in the next section.

2. System-level design: 
The system-level design phase includes the definition of the product architecture and the decomposition of the product into subsystems and components. The final assembly scheme for the production system is usually defined during this phase as well. The output of this phase usually includes a geometric layout of the product, a functional specification of each of the product's subsystems, and a preliminary process flow diagram for the final assembly process. Chapter 9, Product Architecture, discusses
some of the important activities of system-level design. 

3. Detail design: 
The detail design phase includes the complete specification of the geometry, materials, and tolerances of all of the unique parts in the product and the identification of all of the standard parts to be purchased from suppliers. A process plan is established and tooling is designed for each part to be fabricated within the production system. The output of this phase is the control documentation for the product-the drawings
or computer files describing the geometry of each part and its production tooling,
the specifications of the purchased parts, and the process plans for the fabrication and assembly
of the product. Two critical issues addressed in the detail design phase are production
cost and robust performance. These issues are discussed respectively in Chapter 11,
Design for Manufacturing, and Chapter 13, Robust Design.

4. Testing and refinement: 
The testing and refinement phase involves the construction
and evaluation of multiple preproduction versions of the product. Early
(alpha) prototypes are usually built with production-intent parts-parts with the same
geometry and material properties as intended for the production version of the product
but not necessarily fabricated with the actual processes to be used in production.
Alpha prototypes are tested to determine whether the product will work as designed
and whether the product satisfies the key customer needs. Later (beta) prototypes are
usually built with parts supplied by the intended production processes but may not be
assembled using the intended final assembly process. Beta prototypes are extensively
evaluated internally and are also typically tested by customers in their own use environment.
The goal for the beta prototypes is usually to answer questions about performance
and reliability in order to identify necessary engineering changes for the final
product. Chapter 12, Prototyping, presents a thorough discussion of the nature and use
of prototypes.

5. Production ramp-up: In the production ramp-up phase, the product is made using
the intended production system. The purpose of the ramp-up is to train the work force
and to work out any remaining problems in the production processes. Products produced
during production ramp-up are sometimes supplied to preferred customers and are carefully
evaluated to identify any remaining flaws. The transition from production ramp-up
to ongoing production is usually gradual. At some point in this transition, the product is
launched and becomes available for widespread distribution.

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  • References and Bibliography
    Many current resources are available on the Internet via
    Stage-gate product development processes have been dominant in manufacturing firms
    for the past 30 years. Cooper describes the modem stage-gate process and many of its
    enabling practices.
    Cooper, Robert G., Winning at New Products: Accelerating the Process from Idea to
    Launch, third edition, Perseus Books, Cambridge, MA, 2001.

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