How to Increase Your Speed to Market?


As the old adage goes – time is money. As such, we receive one question above all else from our customers – how can we get our product to market faster? Sometimes it is a new product whose speed to market will directly influence missed sales. Other times it is an existing product moving manufacturing locations due to a need for increased quality, a desire for better customer service and lead times, or to satisfy requirements for dual sourcing. Be it any of the above catalysts for initiating part development with a new manufacturing location, all share one thing in common; reducing part development times reduces cost and minimizes risk.
We wanted to put together some info that would help teams get their products to market faster, regardless of the industry or type of manufacturing contractor to be used. Below we list some of the biggest factors in increasing your speed to market during part development.


The sooner the manufacturer has information the smoother the rest of the development process will go. Giving manufacturers enough time to allocate capacity, gather required materials, study specifications, provide design help, etc. will ensure that downstream processes flow smoothly. This also provides time so that any questions or proposed changes can be discussed right from the start, giving both parties clear vision of the project going forward. Contacting early also gives ample time to handle important and essential tasks which may not be directly related to the part development process – such as nondisclosure agreements and approved supplier audits.


In line with contacting the manufacturer early, it is equally important to get any relevant documents together and release to them to the manufacturer as soon as nondisclosure agreements are in place. A part cannot be accurately quoted until required specifications have been submitted; this includes material specs, inspection standards, part drawings, CAD models, sub-contracted process specifications (plating, electropolishing, heat treatment, etc.), terms and conditions, FAI/PPAP requirements, etc. Having these items ready from the start will ensure the fastest and most accurate quote. It is best to release these documents once your changes have been frozen. It is, however, best to still be open to changes recommended by the manufacturer so long as they do not violate design constraints – which brings us to our next point.


Having all of the product requirements and design constraints clearly listed will allow the manufacturer to evaluate the design and decide if any design for manufacture considerations may be used to decrease process complexity and reduce product cost. Having open communication between engineering teams is vital for maximizing the cost and lead time savings associated with Design For Manufacturability (DFM). Many times, DFM not only saves cost but also reduces component complexity, allowing for development to move fast and avoid any potential pitfalls that may occur due to the increased complexity.


Once all DFM activities are complete and designs are frozen, tooling can be built and first article runs can begin. It is important to have all FAI/PPAP requirements as well as design changes frozen at this time. Unexpected changes to the drawings can cause tooling rework or additional processes to be added. Additional inspection requirements can cause delays since they were not accounted for in the original product timeline. It is important not only to have these requirements static but also properly documented. All reference specs, documents, drawings, and inspection needs should be supplied and listed on the purchase order. Discussions on requirements can be unclear and dynamic – causing a misalignment of expectations and can introduce additional hurdles at the end of the development process.


Additive manufacturing is a powerful tool that can used pre development to provide useful insights to both the manufacturer and the purchasing company. In the investment casting industry, additive manufacturing can be used to get small quantities of cast metal parts in a short amount of time with little commitment to final design. 3D printers are used to create wax or polymer patterns that can then be used like normal wax patterns in the process (if you are unfamiliar with the process, we strongly urge you to check out our “Investment Castings” web page which covers it in detail). This can provide the manufacturer with invaluable feedback on how to optimize the process before tooling samples are produced.

It can also highlight issues from DFM or product design perspectives that will allow design changes to be made without the costly expense or added time of making tooling repairs. Although using rapid prototypes does add a step in the development process it can reduce the risk of any future setbacks significantly – especially on high complexity components.

Following these simple guidelines can ensure a smooth and rapid development process – helping you get your product to market in the shortest amount of time possible the first time around. In today’s market, open communication between vendors and their customers is vital to success for both parties. The traditional vendor/customer relationship is going by the way side. Companies must work together and partner in a constructive and cohesive manner just as two departments would interact within the same organization. The above points may seem trivial but these are common pitfalls in the development process and can provide many benefits when followed correctly. Be sure to follow these points in your next supplier development process to get your product to market in the shortest space of time possible.