Most entrepreneurs are familiar with how the Lean Startup principles apply to general technology and software products, but are less aware of how important it is for hardware. The added investment of not only time but hard costs for manufactured goods makes it that much more crucial to be efficient.
Scott published a post last October with some general thoughts about applying Lean to a Hardware Startup, I thought I would follow up with a few specifics.
Before you start your hardware manufacturing process, take into consideration the following tips for how you can apply a lean method to your product launch:
Make sure what you are designing is available and can be manufactured at scale.
Be careful of both obsolete and brand new products in the electronics market. Nothing is worse than ramping up production only to learn that the hottest new component the sales guy told you about is actually not going into production or has a 36-week lead-time. We’ve seen it happen. Make sure what you are designing is readily available.
Work with a manufacturer who brings valuable feedback to the table.
Your manufacturing partner should be providing you with feedback to make sure your product can be easily manufactured. This is known as design for manufacturability (or DFM). There will always be something that needs to be changed/updated/modified on your product, but there is no reason to add to that list as long as your manufacturing partner can provide you with the right feedback.
Find a small, trusted group of users for testing.
One avenue we’ve seen hardware startups take is to start with a small production run of their product and release it to a select group. This is a trusted group who can provide you with honest feedback of how the product is going to be used in the real world. Maybe there are some features that you thought were critical, but no one actually uses. This group can be very helpful in creating efficiency for your manufacturing process in the long run.