From scratch to launch
In order to be known for what you want to be known, you must constantly prove your strength in the chosen field. Especially if this is product development and improvement. Then, you must pay close attention to what you do if you want to stay ahead of competition. The market dynamics are very high in the industry of metalworking. Therefore, Jeroen Boer sheds light on the best practices in product development that work for Translas.
How does the idea for a product arise?
An idea gets created mainly by talking to OEMs. It is very important to know what their needs are. Together we sit down to brainstorm and talk about the latest developments in their machine technology. OEMs are using newly and more advanced machinery all the time. This is why we have to check with them what is it that they exactly need and expect from us. Of course, experience is very important as well. Translas has over 50 years of experience in the welding marker. This helps the company tremendously in knowing the market, where is it going, what is missing from it, etc.
The 9 steps in product development
The cycle of starting from scratch to launching a product takes minimum two years, but most of the time, it takes two to three years. For instance, Translas wants to exhibit a new 7XM MIG line at the exhibition in Essen in 2017. For this process to be completed, the development of the new MIG line will start this summer 2015. Although new, the torches must still be in line with the rest of the product range. This might sound as an easy task, but it is certainly not.
There are basically nine steps, you need to go through:
- 3D Design
- Repeating steps 2), 3) and 4) until needed
- Creating definite molding tools
This process is, in fact, similar to the formally developed Stage-Gate process by Doctor Robert G. Cooper.
Who is involved in the process
Many people are involved in a product development process. Assigning a cross-team on a project is what makes the interaction between the departments much more open and flowing. People tend to be more motivated and show more creativity when they are involved in the overall process rather than simply do their part of the job, related to their own department. A cross-team normally consists of partners, R&D, management and technical department. Partners for Translas are OEMs but also independent knowledge organization, such as iTanks and TNO in the Netherlands. They help us with upgrading our technology according to the latest technological and machine developments.
In the whole process, R&D is definitely the most important player in the game. We cannot skip the fact, though, that it is the management who lays down the basis of a project and leads it to the end.
However, just as mentioned in the Stage-Gate process, the close synchronization of the team is what ensures a successful launch of a product.
Where does it happen
Geographically, the product development process happens mainly in-house. Development and production are entirely accommodate in Nieuwegein, in the Netherlands, where is Translas’ office located. Of course, when partnering with others, such as iTanks and TNO, part of the process – such as testing and prototyping, happens at their site – also in the Netherlands. However, most product development projects happen on an international level. In the case of Translas, TA Pacific is also involved to some extent in the 3D Design step.
Critical points in the process
There are two main aspects that are very critical for the success of a new product. First of all, the technical aspects have to combine well with the design. “They have to fit in it”. The second thing is that it has to be usable for the welder. You can have an amazing product but if it does not fit the need of the user, it is worth nothing.
“We have been through that already. It [a product] can be as high tech as an iPhone but if you cannot weld with a glove with it, what do you need it for. ” – Jeroen Boer.
What is also something Translas has in mind when developing a new product is how to make it universal, suitable for most of the customers and, ideally, for all customers. A product is not going to be successful if you only have one person that can make use of it. That is tackled during the steps of brainstorming and testing.
Our most recent and significant project is the Extractor, which was very recently launched. It took three years from beginning of the project to launch. Collaborating with partners, such as iTanks and TNO, was of a great advantage. Translas shared the long years of experience in welding and knowledge of the market and TNO – with their modern tech knowledge – helped to upgrade the technology we already had.
A critical moment in this project was creating a handle that is the same size as the handle of a normal MIG torch, but with 65 m³/hr flow. “This is what I mean by fitting the technical aspects into the design. This was the most difficult part in the process.”
From the beginning, it was important that the development is as effective as to deserve the patent. The fumes had to be caught right at the source, so they are not allowed to get even close to the face of the welder. Achieving the value of 90% - 95% less fumes, thus, making the fume extraction highly effective, is a huge technological development. Therefore, the Extractor is now deservedly getting its patent.
As mentioned above, the knowledge sharing is vital for technological developments to be given birth. Translas is open to participating in the development of other welding-related products. Therefore, if you have an idea that is worth sharing, please, approach us freely.