What’s Ahead for Product Development & Innovation in 2021
The past year has caused every industry to rethink their product development strategies.
According to IndustryWeek.com:
“Like all industries, the design and manufacturing world experienced a shockwave of changes in 2020 due to the pandemic, and as a result many product development companies had to suddenly become more agile to pivot in new and innovative ways. Amidst the continued challenges of COVID-19 in 2021, this need to be agile continues for businesses of all sizes.
“Collaboration among remote workers will be just as important next year. As product developers create innovative solutions to rapidly changing problems, lead times from concept to manufacturing will need to keep shrinking in order to get products to market in time—before market conditions change yet again.
“With all that in mind, here are my top four industry predictions for 2021:
“Prediction #1: The evolution of modern product development will continue to speed up. Some sectors are poised for particularly spectacular growth, including medical devices and healthcare. Indeed, a recent report by Frost & Sullivan found that the increasing adoption of digital technologies in hospitals during the pandemic “presents immense growth prospects for market participants.”
“For example, when shortages of life-saving ventilator equipment arose last spring, hardware startup Meter met that challenge. The startup quickly engineered a more affordable ventilator for rapid manufacture in high quantities without relying on specialized parts. Turning to cloud-enabled collaborative 3D design tools, Meter worked with a coalition of healthcare and technology partners to complete six design iterations of the groundbreaking Rise Emergency Ventilator in just three weeks.
“The shock of the global pandemic caused companies to suddenly rethink how their products could be used to meet changing demands. Heeding the lessons learned, companies will seek to develop new process innovations and faster, less expensive methods of designing products and getting them to market. Across industries, I foresee the use of new materials and components in the manufacturing of established products to enhance quality, overall performance, and sustainability.
“Prediction #2: Digital customers will keep wanting things faster. Companies will continue to become more customer-centric by engaging and addressing shifting customer demands. Executives will need to ensure speed and agility for measuring up to these higher expectations.
“Rather than waiting until the end of the process, companies will enable users to share “in-process” designs. They will also gather customer feedback and alignment earlier to allow for more iterations and ultimately a smoother approval process and increase their chances of getting their product correctly aligned for the market. Customers will want accelerated timelines, with digital real-time updates on the status of products in development, together with rapid delivery.
“Prediction #3: With work-from-home (WFH) moving to a long-term response, cloud transformation will boost productivity. According to a recent study by MIT, about a third of workers who commuted to work prior to the pandemic had switched to working from home by July 2020. As reported by Harvard Business Review (HBR), rising numbers of businesses, including Facebook and Twitter, are allowing employees whose roles allow it to work from home permanently.
“Cloud computing has been a bright spot for remote workers in 2020. People quickly adapted to technologies such as Zoom and Google Meet to get their work done and stay connected. In the product development arena, we learned how to create global teams and deliver products, fast. Cloud solutions product development platforms allowed innovators and engineers to collaborate, communicate and manage design projects, some of them for lifesaving products, in real time while working remotely.
“Let’s take Masks.org as an example. This nonprofit was created by Boston’s medical, academic and tech communities to address the dire shortage of medical personal protective equipment (PPE) at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. PTC/Onshape, Google, Formlabs and other engineers collaborated on the project to design masks from snorkel gear for front line workers within days. In fact, Mask.org has mass-produced more than 36,000 reusable, sanitizable emergency-use face shields—in collaboration with innovators and product designers across the county—while working form home.
“What does this mean? In 2021, WFH employees and their managers will demand more and will rely on improved cloud and SaaS technologies to stay connected, productive and collaborate virtually.
“Prediction #4: Artificial intelligence (AI) will drive process innovation. AI will be used more and more during 2021. As Daniel Newman has suggested in Forbes, the timing is simply right. AI is being increasingly integrated now with chips from Intel, NVIDIA, and Qualcomm, as well as with cloud platforms from the likes of AWS, Azure, IBM, and Oracle.
“The year 2021 will also herald the convergence of artificial intelligence with robotics process automation (RPA), as well as automated resolution of IT issues through AI. Factory planning will move from spreadsheets and Gannt charts to AI-driven factory operations – and the list will continue to grow.
“Certainly, 2021 will have its own unique and unexpected challenges. But despite the unknowns, forward-thinking companies can better prepare themselves for a myriad of potential changes. And optimistically thinking ahead to the post-pandemic economy, businesses can continue to develop new and creative approaches to product design, manufacturing, and delivery – undoubtedly yielding some pleasant surprises.
“What’s your prediction for 2021?”