What is New Product Introduction (NPI)? Understand This 6 Step Process
Updated: Aug 3
When Apple CEO Tim Cook took the stage at the Fortune Global Forum in 2017, he shared his views on the importance of the new product introduction (NPI) process and spoke these exact words:
“Process engineering and process development associated with our products require innovation in and of itself... we want to make things in the scale of hundreds of millions, and we want the quality level of zero defects.”
In today’s highly competitive market, you can have the most impressive product idea, design, or business venture; yet, poor manufacturer relationships or product development processes can render all your efforts fruitless. Therefore, understanding what the new product introduction (NPI) process entails is an important step you need to take before proceeding with product manufacturing.
This article provides valuable information about new product introduction and the six-step process to help you implement an efficient and effective NPI.
Table of Contents:
What is the New Product Introduction Process?
The New Product Introduction (NPI) process is a clear plan that takes your product idea through various phases, resulting in a finished product (or service) launched into the marketplace.
So let’s say you’ve got a new smartphone product idea that you’re looking to bring to the market. The NPI process will encompass all the activities required to successfully develop and launch the product, including product design, customer research, sourcing, risk analyses, manufacturing, and validation tests, to name a few.
The NPI process involves a large amount of cross-functional communication and teamwork between your company and its supply chain to deliver quality products on time and within budget. The steps of the NPI process vary from company to company, but they generally follow this order:
Let’s take a look at these steps in more detail.
The 6 Steps in the NPI Process Explained
The first step of the new product introduction process (NPI) is to define your product’s functional requirements. When doing so, it is essential to take the voice of your customers into account. Since it’s likely that a similar product already exists in the market, most businesses form a small team to explore idea generation and determine critical to quality (CTQ) features.
CTQ features help you understand what drives quality in the eyes of your potential customers, so you can create a product (or service) that meets their expectations. For instance, consider a scenario where your customers need a durable smartphone device that works perfectly even after dropping it. A “critical to quality” feature, in that case, would be a damage-resistant material.
After obtaining the product requirements and converting them into necessary design specifications, most businesses develop a project charter containing the project scope and objectives, stakeholders, key deliverables and dates, design team, and risks. The Define Phase is often the most challenging — early mistakes waste time and increase opportunity costs.
The feasibility phase simply allows you to determine the project’s potential for success. It’s the phase where you review the design concepts, design for manufacturing (DFM), and competitive landscape for the proposed new product.
The feasibility phase usually involves planning how to create functional prototypes, perform various tests on them, and get market feedback. At this stage, your team gathers information about the selected design concept, strengths, risks, manufacturing operations, and manufacturing costs for the project.
At the end of the feasibility phase, you should have enough information to decide whether to move forward with the product development, redesign some parts, or abandon the project. One thing to note, though: the success of your project primarily depends on the quality of prototypes you’ll be creating, so you must find effective partners (or contract manufacturers) for prototyping.
The Develop Phase involves advancing the product design and creating a bill of materials (BOM) and other necessary paperwork while assessing risks. A very popular methodological approach for identifying risks at the design stage is the DFMEA (Design Failure Modes and Effects Analysis).
DFMEA gives you an idea about all possible failure modes (or points), malfunctions, safety problems, and compliance issues in your design, so you can take actions or design modifications to mitigate them. By performing DFMEA, you ensure that the finished product (or service) is free from problems when it hits the market.
In addition to the BOM, other necessary paperwork at this stage include (but are not limited to):
Concept Level Drawings
Safety / Regulatory Audit Reports
Design Verification Plan and Report (DVP&R)
Design for Manufacture and Assembly (DFMA) reviews
The information you obtain from this phase will help you determine whether to move the project to the next stage or redesign some components.
As the name suggests, the Validate Phase is where you validate the product in the eyes of the customers and markets. It involves conducting tests and analysis on product prototypes to see if they work as expected. Two essential processes done during this phase are the PFMEA (Process Failure Modes and Effects Analysis) and PPAP (Product Part Approval Process).
PFMEA helps you identify and evaluate potential failures associated with the manufacturing processes used to create your final products, such as human error and equipment malfunction.
In contrast, PPAP helps you ensure that your supplier understands all engineering design specifications and that their manufacturing process can consistently meet these requirements during a production run.
Keep in mind that design changes are very much possible at the Validate Phase but are usually costly. However, it is essential that you do a thorough job of identifying and dealing with any remaining design issues. Issues that don’t get discovered until later, during the large-scale production stage, become much more costly to handle.
The Implement Phase of the NPI process involves determining how to scale the product and release it to the market. This phase features a lot of refinement and validation through pilot builds and Product Capabilities Studies (CPk) — the statistical measure of the manufacturing process’s ability to produce your parts within a specified limit and consistently.
In addition to these, here’s a list of other important activities you must perform during the Implement Phase of the NPI process:
Create Production Control Plans
Create price list, catalog, and quote tools
Review safety and regulatory compliance
Although overlooked by most businesses and product developers, the Evaluate Phase of the NPI process is often the most important. It is usually initiated 30 - 60 days after product development and launch. This phase provides your team the opportunity to evaluate how the NPI process went, review process performance, and collect customer feedback on the new product (or service).
Manufacturing is a process of continuous improvement. And those who are willing to learn from their product development mistakes and integrate features to improve their products and solve customer challenges are always successful with their business ventures.
Agile in Asia can help you plan and execute your product launch by integrating our structured NPI approach into your product development process, saving you time and money while mitigating your risks. We have a team of highly qualified engineers, supply chain professionals, and project managers to ensure your products get made right the first time.
Learn more about our New Product Introduction services.