.... scope of activities

Every project or product development presents its own challenges. Each has varying requirements, resource demands and risks. The better these are understood at the outset the more likely the project will be delivered on time and to budget.

Not all the phases mentioned on this page will be important on each occasion, nor is this intended to be a complete task set, but the following may be a useful check list to see if key components are missing from your project.

If there are elements missing, then perhaps we can help 'plug the gap'.

Marketing and Product Management
Designers and engineers can be a strange bunch in that they usually do what they are told, so it's essential that the product is well specified at the outset. Typically, this phase would include :-
- concept development, features, performance, applications
- requirement analysis including review of competitive products, prices & costs
- market research - quantitative and opinion
- product, market or business strategy development
- identify mandatory and voluntary standards and regulatory approvals
Feasibility Study
Most feasibility studies will start with a review of requirements then progress to an initial design concept. This process helps better to classify the potential risk areas and identify sources for key purchased components, sub systems or IPR if they are needed. Or the study may simply be used to refine important product features such as a user interface or packaging design before too many expensive commitments have been made. The scope for a study might encompass:-
- industrial design concepts using CAD or physical modeling
- software user interface mockups
- mechanical and electronic partitioning
- manufacturing routes and methods
- concept Bill Of Materials with unit and tooling cost forecasts
- development cost and timescales estimate
Information gleaned form the initial Marketing and Feasibility studies then form part of the overall marketing plan and product(s) requirement specifications to guide the design and development stages.
Project Planning

Quite often a 'project plan' is limited to a simply task list with timescale guestimates laid out on a colourful chart which the Board can use as wallpaper. For small, short duration project this is often perfectly adequate as it at least demonstrates that someone has thought about what needs to be done; but is it realistic, accurate and efficient ?

Accuracy is best achieved through experience from previous activities. Efficiency is more complex. The key function of a good plan is as a communication tool informing all participants of their commitments, objectives and dependencies. Efficient communication can allow project activities to run concurrently shortening the time to market in comparison with the sequential 'relay baton' approach.

At a minimum, the plan should identify and address:-

- key activities with objectives. committed resources and planned costs
- dependencies between activities or tasks
- milestones for project reviews and expenditure release
- risk and unknown factors which still need to be resolved
and any other details which is critical for the project to succeed. It's arguable that one of the biggest problems with project plans is over complexity and to be an effective tool the rule is 'keep it simple'.
Detailed Design and Engineering

With adequate preparation a detailed design should proceed efficiently with the obvious proviso that the correct skills and talent are available for the project. Good design has to be elegant and maintainable. Creativity is equally as important as employing the most applicable, techniques, devices or tools and it's no boast to say that Frame Systems has collaborated with some of the most talented engineers and designers in their field.

The combined breadth of experience is too long to detail here and it's sufficient to identify some of the disciplines we are able to support :-

- electronic hardware including most programmable technologies
- control firmware and real time software systems
- analogue (instrumentation through video etc)
- pcb layout and mechanical packaging
- mechanical design of machines, equipment
- design of tooling for plastic / casting etc.
- documentation, including user and technical manuals
- design reviews and appraisal
Subject to availability and needs, we can undertake the complete design or dovetail into an established engineering team to augment existing capabilities.
Project Management

Even the best plan will soon collapse if the project is not effectively managed and the plan updated to cater for real events. Continuous progress monitoring through informal or formal reviews should be maintained and the resuts and information openly shared with all members of the project team. As mentioned before, good communication is the key to effective projet management. It's communication which enables clear, informed decision making and empowers all contributors to operate effectivly together.

Doubtless, most visitors will regard this as just common sense, but it's remarkable how members of some 'teams' simply don't have a clue as to what the real issues and objectives are. Pooling resorces and ideas can enhance problem solving and peer pressure is a great motivator. Often an 'outsider' is able to maintain a more dispassionate perspective to a situation and interim project management can release valuable internal resources to execute the job in hand.

Production Engineering, Introduction and Product Support

Although sometimes neglected until the last stage stages of a development, Production should be involved right at the start. It's Production that will actually have to deliver the product so it's a good idea to ensure they can make it. This is equally true for both internal and subcontracted manufacturering.

Similarly for customer or product support / service teams. Get them in early as they will have a lot of suggestions for improvements and cost savings. Common sense again ? Yes, but it has been woefully neglected by some in the past.

If the gap is here, then Frame Systems might be able to support the introduction to pilot or full production, particularly when all manufacturing is to be subcontracted and internal expertise is limited.

Product Launch and Marketing

We probably all recognise the mad rush, sometimes leading to panic, as the launch date approaches. Trade shows, brochures, demonstrations and sales training all occurring at once with limited product and staff availability. Again planning is key as is a disciplined and structured approach to designing, organising, testing and rehearsing demonstrations and presentations. We can't stop the clock, but we can undertake and support a wide range of these tasks, up to and including planning and organising the entire launch.

Documentation - Technical, Training and User Manuals

Saving the best to last ! Let's be honest, very few people actually enjoy writing manuals so it nearly always gets put off to the last moment.

Content and level of detail needed does vary significantly depending on the product, market and sales territories, but delays in manual production will hold up final product shipments, and thus sales.

Accepting that the 'product' is the entire proposition to the customer, a holistic approach to design can not relegate the manual to the last and lowest priority on the list. Moreover, the documentation has to be tested. Failure to test the operating, technical or service manuals is almost as bad as not testing the hardware or software it describes. For the user, the 'Product' may not meet their expectations as a consequence, and this is a dissatisfied customer at the minimum or a product return(s) or possibly recall at worst.

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© Frame Systems Ltd 2002