Product Development Processes: Exploring the Pros and Cons

Whether you run a startup or you founded a successful company with decades in your given industry, engineering and product development may be at the forefront of what you do. Bringing new products to market is one way that businesses can compete. After all, careers involved in product prototyping (including graphic designers, software developers, mechanical engineers, and others) accounted for 1.2 million jobs nationwide in 2016. In other words, there’s a demand for new and innovative offerings that can improve our lives.

However, getting to the final development stages is no easy task. Even determining the need for a certain product or the basic details of said product can be a challenge. And in many cases, the steps to creating a given product aren’t totally clear.

If all of that sounds familiar, your business could benefit from working with a product development firm. It’s one thing to have incredible ideas; it’s quite another to make them into a reality. All of that starts with identifying the right product development process for your business — and working with a product design and development company that can accommodate those preferences. Whether you need guidance on software design or you’re looking to receive step-by-step assistance on the development of new electronics from a product development firm, understanding the possible processes you might use for developing a new product can be a great place to start.

Waterfall Approaches

Traditional engineering and product development will typically align with “waterfall” approaches. It’s essentially a linear process, meaning that there are specific stages that need to be completed in a certain order before the next one can begin. After a stage is completed, the team generally can’t go back to a previous stage. Instead, movement through the development stages goes in only one forward direction (hence the name “waterfall”). In many cases, there’s a “gate” that exists between each stage, as well; these milestones need to be checked off before moving ahead to the next stage. The original model for waterfall product development featured the phases of product requirements, analysis, design, coding, testing, and operations, but subsequent models have included different variations on the initial process. Usually, waterfall product development approaches are structured as one large project that has well-defined requirements made before beginning any work. Waterfall approaches are used in all kinds of product development, from software and IT to manufacturing and construction.

Waterfall approaches have historically been a popular choice for engineering and product development due to their ease of use. The process is simple to follow and to manage, which also means team members don’t necessarily require any additional training to use it. It’s also a process that’s easy to share with clients. In fact, doing so is actually part of its design. That said, waterfall product development approaches do come with certain limitations. Changes are difficult to accommodate and because the process is so rigid, it can actually be an expensive and time-consuming endeavor.

Agile Processes

Agile product development processes, as their name might suggest, are more flexible in nature. Agile actually refers to a large category of several different processes, including scrum and Kanban (though there are distinct differences between them). Agile methodology forgoes detailed planning at the beginning of a project, instead favoring to changing requirements based on feedback and knowledge. It’s a more incremental approach that focuses on accountability, communication, and collaboration in order to achieve both the customer’s needs and the internal goals of the organization. Efficiency and frequency are prioritized, as are simplicity, sustainability, and competitive edge.

The adaptability of agile processes is a huge selling point, as are the values of consistent improvement, teamwork, and customer feedback. However, these processes do require highly skilled individuals and increased dedication to product development. By working with product design consulting firms, agile development processes are more likely to produce effective results.

When choosing a methodology for your engineering and product development, one type isn’t necessarily superior to the other. Your decision should be based on the needs of your customers, the capacity of your team, and your ultimate vision for your organization. To learn more about how our engineers can help streamline your company’s product development, please contact us today.

Fiercely Small: Porticos Helps Design Radios that Channel Durability and Portability

Police need reliable technology that can work overtime. Fire responders need loud, clear communication tools that work in any environment. EMS need multiple communication channels, so they’re always accessible. They all need their equipment to be as tough as the people using them.

But just like the rest of us, emergency responders also need their technology to be portable. When Harris, a leader in communications technology, was ready to work on the development of a smaller, LTE-capable portable radio, Porticos was proud to answer the call.

Harris has been a leader in radio technology for over 80 years, meaning many of Harris’ customers have already purchased accessories for other radio series. They knew that the new radios would need to remain backward compatible with these accessories while channeling cutting-edge advancements in size, durability, and quality.

The radio would have to offer the best in communications technology, including extended battery life, superior audio quality, plus GPS, Bluetooth®, Wi-Fi, and LTE capability.

Most important, they would need to be built tough: sealed against water, protected against drops, and ready to work in fast-paced, sometimes dangerous environments. Furthermore the radios needed to be easily upgradeable to allow the customer to take advantage of LTE technology or upgrade from single-band to full-spectrum at their convenience.

Balancing the need for durability and portability is a challenge that Porticos has met before. Porticos team members focused on each aspect of the design to ensure that the modular construction wouldn’t impact the durability. For example, in order to meet this project’s goals for extended and upgradeable battery life, Porticos developed an external, replaceable battery with an innovative latch system that is both easy to remove in the field and durable enough to stay in place during harsh use. This allows for easy battery replacement in the field or upgrades to higher capacity batteries for customers who need it.

Product Design for Durability“We tested the product in some incredibly harsh environments to ensure that these radios will be reliable in the field,” said Porticos engineer Mike Kiplinger.

With the end customers in mind, the Porticos team also spent a lot of time considering ergonomics. As a result the radios’ side buttons and top switches were designed to be easy to operate and replace, but also reliable enough to stay in place during use.

Porticos is proud to have been chosen by Harris as a development partner and of our ability to achieve world class results by developing the smallest full-spectrum LTE-capable portable radio on the planet; the Harris XL-200P.

A Next-Generation Blood Clotting Test for the Point of Care

If you’re bleeding, how does the doctor know whether you need a transfusion? How does she know how much to give, or when to stop? Today there are diagnostics tests that provide this information, but not enough hospitals use them beccause they’re expensive, complicated, and unreliable. What if there was a simpler test that was small and easy-to-use? Transfusion outcomes would improve and hospitals would save money.

Rheomics LogoThe Chapel Hill-based startup Rheomics is developing a device to solve this problem. Using Rheomics’s patent-pending Actuated Surface-Attached Post (ASAP) technology, doctors will be able to direct transfusion therapy using only a pinprick of blood in a simple, effective test.

A device, using Rheomics’s patent-pending Actuated Surface-Attached Post (ASAP) technology, that doctors will be able to use for a simple, effective test using only a pinprick of blood.Rheomics contacted Porticos because they needed to demonstrate that their technology could be packaged in a compact, low-cost device. Continue reading “A Next-Generation Blood Clotting Test for the Point of Care”

They Made It! Congratulations to the successful Scott Expedition

On the morning of Friday, February 7th, Ben Saunders and Tarka L’Herpiniere completed, for the first time ever, the ill-fated journey of Captain Robert Falcon Scott’s iconic Terra Nova expedition. It took the Team 105 days to trek the 1,795 mile feat that Captain Scott and his men died attempting over 100 years ago.

The Team was able to share their journey with the world through their public blog at http://scottexpedition.com/blog. In order to publish from Antarctica, they needed unique satellite equipment. Porticos worked with Iridium to customize the Pilot™, a satellite antenna array dome that the Team used to share their progress live via real-time blog posts. To learn more about Porticos’s involvement with the expedition, see our original blog post, Following The Scott Expedition Through Antarctica: The Customized Satellite Project Worthy Of A South Pole Adventure.

Ben and Tarka created a video summarizing their journey, which can be viewed here: http://scottexpedition.com/blog/a-great-adventure-video.

Porticos is Invited to ASSIST with NSF-Funded and University-Supported Nanotechnology Research

Porticos is pleased to announce a new partnership with the Center for Advanced Self-Powered Systems of Integrated Sensors and Technologies. The $18.5M Engineering Research Center is developing technologies to improve global health through nanotechnology-enabled, wearable electronics. Continue reading “Porticos is Invited to ASSIST with NSF-Funded and University-Supported Nanotechnology Research”

State-of-the-Art Mail Tray Loader Moves Paper at 150 Inches per Second

Porticos has supported Bell and Howell, a leading global provider of customer communication solutions, on many complex paper handling designs since establishing a relationship over five years ago.

 

The most recent of these multipart projects is the Solix™ Mail Tray Loader, which handles up to 30,000 envelopes an hour.  That equates to an impressive 150 inches of paper per second! Continue reading “State-of-the-Art Mail Tray Loader Moves Paper at 150 Inches per Second”

New Introduction to Porticos presentation shares how Porticos does product design for the way we’re designed

Porticos Executive Summary Presentation
Introduction to Porticos presentation

Porticos prides itself on being able to provide innovative solutions to our customer’s needs. Want to learn how we do it and hear more about our latest projects? Check out our new Introduction to Porticos presentation, available for viewing or for downloading from our Executive Summary page. Continue reading “New Introduction to Porticos presentation shares how Porticos does product design for the way we’re designed”

Following The Scott Expedition through Antarctica: The Customized Satellite Project Worthy of a South Pole Adventure

Captain Scott’s Last Expedition—also known as the fateful Terra Nova Expedition—is a tragic but legendary part of Antarctic history. In 1912, along with his team of four brave men, Scott lost his life in a battle against the cold, isolated wilderness of the Antarctic while attempting to hike to the South Pole and back on foot. Scott and his men are iconic figures in exploratory history; from biographers to Boy Scouts, passionate historians and adventure enthusiasts alike have reveled in the amazing feat that was attempted by the brave Terra Nova explorers so many years ago.

Captain Scott writing in his journal in the Winterquarters hut, 7 October 1911. Image courtesy of The Scott Polar Research Institute (SPRI).
Captain Scott writing in his journal in the Winterquarters hut, 7 October 1911. Image courtesy of The Scott Polar Research Institute (SPRI).

To this day, Scott’s 1,800-mile return journey to the South Pole has never been completed. But starting this October, British adventurers Ben Saunders and Tarka L’Herpiniere set out on foot to complete what the original Scott Expedition explorers lost their lives fighting for. Saunders and L’Herpiniere’s four-month, unsupported return journey from the coast of Antarctica to the South Pole and back will follow Scott’s exact route, honoring the Captain’s legacy, showcasing incredible physical endurance, and proving that—with the right knowledge and skills—anything is possible. Thanks to these two brave 21st century explorers and their support team, the next chapter in Captain Scott’s historic story will be written more than 100 years after it began.

The original dome is shown on the left; on the right is a customized, lightweight piece used in the finished Pilot.
The original dome is shown on the left; on the right is a customized, lightweight piece used in the finished Pilot.

In an effort to allow the world to share in the experience of the Scott Expedition, Saunders and L’Herpiniere have taken on the ambitious task of sharing their progress live via real-time blog posts. The success of those communications hinges on a customized version of Iridium’s satellite antenna array dome, known as the Pilot™ connected to a Sony Vaio Pro ultrabook using Intel’s latest 4th Generation technology. The Pilot™ provides mobile solutions that reach across oceans and through airways for a myriad of maritime, government, emergency, and transportation agencies.

Once Iridium learned of the need to customize the Pilot™, to make it practical for Saunders and L’Herpiniere to hike with it across the Antarctic, they recommended the Team contact the product development and engineering firm responsible for the original Pilot™: Porticos. The Iridium recommendation recognizes a long-standing relationship between the two companies that has resulted in many products, including the satellite phone known as the Extreme™, which is also being used by the Scott Expedition Team during their trek.

The overall goal of this customization project was to reduce the weight of the unit as much as possible, from 11.8kg to no more than 6kg. By re-engineering the main ADE components, Porticos engineers were able to reduce the overall weight by 55%, bringing the total weight down to approximately 5.3kg.

Porticos Engineer Mike Kiplinger testing the customized device.
Porticos Engineer Mike Kiplinger testing the customized device.

The drastic weight reduction was not the only difficult aspect of this project; Porticos engineers were asked to meet a tight project schedule that accommodated the crew’s hard launch deadline. Not only did Porticos meet the deadline, but our engineers also customized the necessary parts, did the assembly, and tested the unit extensively in the total system to ensure it would function properly during the expedition.

To this day, there is a monument in Antarctica dedicated to the memory of those brave original explorers. High on Observation Hill, a 754-foot hill adjacent to Antarctica’s McMurdo Station, is a large wooden cross that was erected by the carpenters of the Terra Nova in 1913. The carpenters inscribed the cross with the names of the lost party and with Tennyson’s line from his poem Ulysses: “To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.” The now-legendary Captain Scott and his crew never completed their ill-fated expedition in 1912. But in 2013, two men and their team members hope to extend our imagination for what’s possible, to close one of the greatest chapters in polar exploration, and to not yield.

For more about The Scott Expedition: 

Prosthetic Cooling Liner earns Gold Stevie at 2013 American Business Awards

Gold_Stevie_Award_Winner

Porticos ingenuity was recently recognized at The 2013 Stevie Awards! The Prosthetic Cooling Liner, developed in partnership with SCRA Applied R&D, received the coveted Gold Stevie in the category of Tech Innovation of the Year. Since 2002, the top-tier Gold Stevie Award has been conferred for achievement in business to organizations and individuals in more than 60 nations.

Learn more about the award-winning Prosthetic Cooling Liner from our recent press release, “Porticos Makes Advancements in Amputee Heat Issues.”

The Stevie Awards were created to generate public recognition for positive contributions of organizations and business people worldwide. The American Business Awards are judged each year by more than 200 executives across the nation. Porticos and SCRA Applied R&D were honored by this recognition at the 11th annual American Business Awards banquet, which was held on Monday, September 16, at the Julia Morgan Ballroom in San Francisco, California. SCRA Applied R&D accepted this award on behalf of the partnership innovation project. To learn more about the American Business Awards, view the Stevie Awards website at http://www.stevieawards.com/aba/. The full program is available at http://www.stevieawards.com/uploads/file/ABA13_Program_September.pdf.

Gold_Stevie_Image_13percentThe name Stevie is taken from the name Stephen, which is derived from the Greek for “crowned.” The crystal pyramid held aloft by Stevie represents the hierarchy of human needs, a system often represented as a pyramid that was developed in the 1960s by psychologist Abraham Maslow, who observed that after their basic needs are met, human beings seek the esteem of their peers.

 

About Porticos — Porticos, Inc. is a mechanical engineering and product development company located in Research Triangle Park, NC.  Established in 2003, Porticos continues to produce innovative and effective solutions for its clients and the markets they serve.  Porticos, Inc. provides mechanical design, analysis, research and development services to clients including Dell, Motorola, Raytheon, and many others.  For more information on how Porticos “turns good ideas into great products,” please visit https://www.porticos.net/

About SCRA Applied R&DSCRA Applied R&D is an applied research corporation with over 30 years of experience delivering technology solutions with high returns on investment to federal and corporate clients. To fulfill our mission, SCRA Applied R&D has three sectors: Our Technology Ventures sector helps early-stage companies to commercialize innovations and create jobs, our Applied R&D sector manages over 100 national and international programs worth over $2 billion in contract value and our R&D Facilities sector builds and manages research facilities that include wet labs, secure rooms for sensitive work and advanced high-tech manufacturing shops. Multiple economic output studies show SCRA Applied R&D’s cumulative impact on South Carolina’s economy to be over $14 billion, and that the company has helped create approximately 15,000 technology-related jobs in SC, with wages averaging between $55,000 and $77,000. http://www.SCRA Applied R&D.org/

Mechanical Engineering and Design Firm Redesigns… Itself.

Ten years ago, a small group of accomplished mechanical engineers at Sony Ericsson were drawn together by a passion for leading-edge product development. The freethinking engineers shared a vision to create a product development and design environment where creativity and innovation could prosper. Continue reading “Mechanical Engineering and Design Firm Redesigns… Itself.”