Setting the Standards in Innovation
Interface continues to advance our business to meet the growing demands and requirements of our expansive line of products. As it pertains to product development, the focus is heavily placed on innovating to enable our customers to depend on Interface solutions for evolving technology trends to design and test next-generation products. This fundamental prioritization at Interface over the past decade is centered on the way we serve our customers and by enhancing our product development process.
How does Interface take a customer challenge or key technology trend from an idea to a scalable product?
Interface does not follow a standard product development process with a team dedicated to coming up with new ideas. New product development is a culmination of input from every facet of our company, from sales to engineers. We leverage the outstanding talent we have built at Interface across the board to identify what is next in terms of solving force measurement challenges.
New product ideas are mainly identified from three different areas:
- Trend Research: We are continually looking at technology trends to determine how we solve problems in an evolving technology world.
- Customer Requirements: Many product ideas are born from working face-to-face with customers to discover their precise needs. Occasionally, a custom product built for a specific customer will present a wider market appeal and turn into a larger product line.
- Product Gaps: We are always reviewing our core products to try and identify gaps in our ability to solve customer needs.
Once we have identified specific challenges that Interface can solve with a new solution, we begin to look internally to ensure that we have the right talent and expertise to deliver an industry-leading force measurement product. If not, we may search externally for the right talent or partners to collaborate on the project. We utilize tools like the SWOT analysis to evaluate our technical, business, and competitive position in the market.
Upon determining that the product is in high demand with our customers or in new markets, we then further define our product concept, as well as the business case for development and going to market. We perform thorough research to determine potential applications and conduct a risk analysis on the product. This is followed by a timeline for development and assigning resources to the development project.
Interface uses either an agile or phase-gate approach depending on the type of project. This allows Interface to make better decisions throughout the development process and quickly adjust when we determine there is a better or more efficient way of doing something.
If the technology we will be working with to develop the new product is something we have never worked with before, we assess the technology readiness level (TRL). This process helps to determine if we are equipped to handle the new technology or if we need to invest in additional R&D and, in some cases, expertise to carry out the project.
Following the detailed development plan, risk analysis, establishing a timeline and allocating resources to the development of the new idea, we begin the concept phase. This involves some discovery and often includes designing and manufacturing a prototype of the product, to begin testing with customers and gaining feedback for additional iterations.
These steps lead us to deciding if a minimum viable product (MVP) or minimum valuable product is the best way to proceed to market. Utilizing this approach, we can quickly develop a fully functioning product with minimal bells and whistles and get it into a customer’s hands. This also freezes the design and allows production to prepare for the product launch.
Concluding the process is a new product introduction (NPI) and lifecycle management. During NPI we are focused on two key aspects – internal planning and external communication. Our internal planning involves setting up manufacturing and educating the sales staff on the final product. External communication is the process of creating a marketing plan, developing content and data sheets, as well as planning events and demonstrations for exhibits.
During the lifecycle management phase, we are taking orders, managing service on the product, and evaluating both the product and the launch. All these initiatives help drive future product development and launch strategies for innovative solutions.
This part of the process is where our technical sales team is critical. These individuals, with strong relationships with our customers, are constantly collecting feedback and reporting back to our design and engineering teams. This helps us determine the best way to proceed in adding additional features and technology to the product. This in turn, leads to post launch releases and enhancements to the product, which help fuel the product’s growth.
Our product development process is constantly evolving as we continue to add new capabilities and work towards providing our customers with an all-encompassing suite of force measurement solutions to handle the challenges of today and into the future. Interface has thousands of products, standard, modified, and custom. It is critical in our approach to stay ahead of trends, predict needs, and most importantly listen to our customers to make sure our products are exactly what they need from a leader in force measurement.
To learn more about Interface and our industry-leading lineup of force measurement products providing premium accuracy and reliability contact our Application Engineer experts. Be sure to watch for new product updates by subscribing to our InterfaceIQ blog here: /blog/.
Contributor: Ted Larson, Vice President of Product Management and Marketing
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