New Product S-curve of Progress
The S-curve of a successful new product, as shown above, consists of four phases. First is enabling technology research where the new technologies, to be incorporated into a new product’s design, are matured. While not formally a part of a specific new product’s development, this work is still important. Technologies having reached the Technology Readiness Level of 6 are generally considered sufficiently mature to be incorporated into the new product’s development. To emphasize a key point made in the essay on resolving competition between researchers and the new product’s development team, the choice of incorporating any specific new technology into a new product’s design should be a decision made by the development team. (Note that the time scale on the above illustration is not linear. Bringing a new technology from TRL 1 to TRL 6 may be relatively quick—say, a year or so—or several decades.
The second phase is product development. This starts with the definition of a general conceptual design, the technological capabilities of the design, and rough performance, schedule, and cost targets to be achieved with a new product. Trade studies are then performed to define alternative configurations and the relationship between the configuration and performance, schedule, and cost. Once a preferred configuration is selected, preliminary design analyses are undertaken to clarify the design and refine the design’s performance, cost, and schedule targets. At this point, the enabling technologies are selected and the work necessary to further mature these technologies is defined. A formal preliminary design review is usually held to bring together the complete development team to review all aspects of the preferred design and make sure the pieces all fit together. Completion of the preliminary design review is a major milestone.
The product development phase ends with the release of the final design to serial production. In a major aerospace program, 3-4 years may be required to go from the preliminary design to the formal release to production. This phase may involve building a prototype, to complete the technology maturation steps, and several early manufacturing final designs for certification review. During this final design phase, product marketing usually begins—early advertising to introduce the new product to the marketplace, setting up the wholesale and retail distribution systems, etc.
The third phase is product sales. If the product is well received by consumers, product sales will expand until the market is saturated and/or competition from new products ends consumer purchasing.
The final phase is when product sales end. By this time, the entire product development team has already moved onto the replacement product and a new generation should be about ready to hit the market.