May 22, 2020

This Is the Bare Minimum Checklist for a Viable Product

Engineers and designers in the early phase of product development often have questions about what makes a product viable. The answers can improve a product’s chance of success, and getting it right is especially important in the development of products that meet basic needs in emerging markets. Bob Hauck has offered this working checklist, not intended to be comprehensive, to designers and engineers starting out in product development.

Mr. Hauck is Chair of ASME’s Engineering for Global Development Committee after a career of 38 years with GE, where he led a global team of 350 engineers. This list is the “bare minimum,” he says, “for what anyone doing design, development, manufacturing and service for a hardware product needs to have.”

No matter what the product might be, there are some fundamental items that every product needs.

Here are a few of them:

  1. Product Concept Description – the “elevator pitch.”
  2. List of product requirements.
  3. An “Integrated Program Plan” that describes what needs to happen in sequence, highlighting interdependencies for all activities/parts of the product development to come together. It is helpful if your Integrated Plan identifies points along the way where you are going to reevaluate what you are doing to see if you are managing your risks well. This can include technical as well as financial issues and progress.
  4. Product Specification (this is a technical document).
  5. Some sort of a master design file – this is now typically a CAD layout.
  6. Detailed component and/or subsystem specifications – these might be drawings etc.
  7. A bill of materials that lists the components and subsystems with some sort of logic about “what is part/a subset of what.” It lists quantities, brief description, materials etc.
  8. Verification test plans and testing to confirm that what you have designed meets the specifications that you defined.
  9. Validation test plans and evaluation to confirm that whatever you have done yields the results that you originally intended as defined in your product description of intended uses.
  10. A hardware plan – this defines the models, product prototypes, preproduction hardware and first production products you are planning to build. It also specifies when/what they will be used for.
  11. Manufacturing Operational Methods instructions – these are instructions for the people who are building your product, telling them what they should be doing.
  12. Test specifications – both at subsystem and system levels with clear criteria for pass/fail.
  13. Operating Instructions – these are for the customers/users who will be operating your product. This is also called a “Users Manual.”
  14. Discrepant material – these tell the manufacturing team what to do if what they have built does not meet the acceptance criteria defined as a “pass” in your testing (scrap/rework/other)
  15. Service and Support instructions/manuals – this includes instructions for the persons supporting the product, explaining how to troubleshoot issues and what to do to repair/support/recalibrate/upgrade etc. etc. the product. This also includes instructions for how to order repair parts if required.
  16. Complaint Handling – this provides a feedback channel back to the product design and manufacturing teams to let them know what is happening with actual usage of the product.

And here’s Mr. Hauck’s quick take on making simpler products.

Looking for more design tips and instruction in the design of products intended for emerging markets? Please see these other resources on our site.

  1. Introduction to Engineering for Global Development online course
  2. Handbook of Participatory Design for Appropriate Technology
  3. Principles of Humanitarian Engineering: A Ten-Part Series of Mini Lessons in Design for Global Development
  4. Design Your Product for Manufacturability and High Quality

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