In a perfect world, creating the ideal product is a straightforward process that streamlines design and testing without financial constraints. Unfortunately, producing high-quality products with modern techniques can sometimes push you into a situation where rising costs begin to creep, threatening the life of your product before it even reaches its conclusion.
Traditional product testing costs are different for everyone, and are dependent on the type of products being created. However, all products suffer when additional costs peak towards the end of the development pipeline, a situation that can ruin your prospects of a finished piece of equipment.
Our team at Windpact recognizes that the journey towards product creation can easily be unraveled due to financial turmoil, but we believe that a novel approach towards product design can solve these problems. Traditional approaches, while time-tested, can in fact be a detriment if it leads you towards roadblock after roadblock.
Why do production costs peak?
Traditional testing involves a simple path: concept, create prototype, test, deploy. However, testing towards the end of production can bring the entire process to a halt, especially if your product is complex or involves sophisticated testing. This is especially true of impact protection equipment, which demands that parameters such as impact absorption, durability, flexibility, and physical behavior of the material are accurately tested.
The cost of testing varies, but common upfront investments in software, hardware, lab facilities (if needed), training, personnel, and modeling can add up quickly. Ideally, these investments bring you closer towards your product’s creation, but if your pipeline isn’t conducive towards agile iteration, you may inadvertently waste resources when massive overhauls on the design are needed after its completion.
Testing at the end of a pipeline can mean that your product’s design flaws never become apparent until the only option is to go back to the beginning and start over. With that, you have already invested valuable time and resources into an effort that does not even pan out.
Beyond the possibility of wasted upfront investments, oftentimes roadblocks appear due in part to shifting goals expressed by a client. In a perfect world, a client will have clear, concise goals that are unchanging, and communicated consistently by way of a streamlined process or a designated project manager. What is more common, however, is that the process becomes stalled due to changes in project scope, client expectations, and pipeline problems.
A weak process that is not conducive to incorporating client feedback is often the culprit, in addition to a possible lack of a project manager. Rising costs then ensue as the product takes longer to develop; more tweaks, more personnel, possibly even a complete overhaul in order to match client expectations. All product pipelines could benefit from an agile methodology that allows for flexibility in order to avoid these stalls.
Products that never made it to the market because of traditional testing
Traditional testing incurs significant costs, especially when a product needs to be massively retooled after you have already sunk resources into it towards the end of its development. While it is helpful to have examples of these situations, the caveat is that because these products fail, they never see the light of day, so data on them is scarce. They do exist, however — anyone who has ever worked in a product design or engineering capacity can attest to the constant failure and overhaul of ideas and products that often end up shelved because of financial constraints.
A relatively good analogy would be video game development, which is notoriously costly depending on the studio, and their failures are (unfortunately) made visibly public. A famous example would be of the development of Duke Nukem Forever, which spanned 15 years and was considered vaporware until its 2015 release. Development was stalled because, reportedly, the directors were attempting to incorporate new gaming trends and technologies into the title after beta testing of the near-finished game was already completed, a process they repeated numerous times across nearly two decades. The situation became so costly, the developers were sued by their publisher.
This is a cautionary tale for teams that aim to incorporate new aspects of a design into their product based on what trends are emerging in their individual markets. If you attempt to do this when you have already gone through the traditional testing process, you may end up in the same situation as the Duke Nukem developers: countless versions of your product eating up resources, only to be completely scrapped at the end of the pipeline because iteration would be too difficult at this late stage.
Finite Element Analysis approaches solve the problem
We do not necessarily dislike the traditional product testing approach, and we have discussed these thoughts in our previous blog post on traditional vs agile approaches to product creation. However, we recognize that it can lead developers down a path that is impossible to incorporate real-time feedback into, until it is already too late. That’s why modern approaches that utilize finite element analyses (FEA) methods are crucial towards reprogramming this pipeline to maximize time, cost, and resources.
FEA approaches are agile first and foremost, and that’s why we like them; instead of sinking costs into constant building and testing after the fact, you can incorporate feedback instantaneously. Moreover, FEA testing that uses high-validity models for simulating physical behavior can slash the costs of testing while preserving product quality. Instead of constantly building and testing new physical models after each iteration, you can perform targeted tweaks that can be implemented at any step in the process, assured that the multiphysics modeling capabilities are capturing accurate real-world behavior of your product. Beyond this, FEA is applicable across nearly any industry where immediate iterations towards an optimal design are desirable, including sports equipment, automotive, and military.
FEA Consultant vs. Outsourced FEA
Having an in-house FEA pipeline can also lead to larger upfront costs, which is why some teams choose to outsource their analytics to a consultant, or a third-party tester. Both options (in-house vs. outsource) have significant challenges and advantages:
In-house FEA is expensive
Depending on the amount of skill required, each FEA software bundle requires that staff be trained on how to optimize the tool, which already comes with high licensing costs, hardware requirements, and support.
FEA requires expertise
Sure, a member or several members of your organization can gain competency in using FEA tools, but the amount of time needed on training to reach that level may be time better spent elsewhere.
Windpact is leading the charge towards cost-effective and efficient product testing
These are just a few examples of how the high cost of FEA startup can pose problems for teams that need agile solutions. Beyond the startup costs, the maintenance and training costs for keeping FEA part of your pipeline are problematic, as well.