Published 09th April 2020 | Articles

Choosing the right product design partner

Making the decision to bring in external skills and services isn’t always easy or straightforward.

Taking the first step is a hurdle in itself.

But secondly, it can be hard to know how what criteria to use in finding the right partner.

In this article, we run through the steps to take and some key questions to ask.

We also explore why outsourcing this product design expertise makes excellent business sense and describe what to look for in a product design consultancy.  

If you ask the right questions – and get the right answers – you’ll find yourself working with product design experts who are as committed as you to your business success.     

Why choose the outsourcing route?

The first question to ask is why you want to use an external product design partner.

If you’re even considering it, it’s probably that you need either new expertise or additional resource to deliver on your product or technology development projects.

A product design consultancy partner can offer:

  • New perspectives:External design consultants will view your development projects from a different and objective angle. They won’t be influenced by existing conventions or assumptions on your project before this point.Instead, as a “fresh pair of eyes” external design partners will be better placed to see things from a different angle, focus on small details and identify new possibilities that you might be missing.
  • Additional capacity:External product design teams are used to working closely with an existing in-house team and know how best to slot in to expand the design capacity and resources without disrupting and upsetting current stakeholders.Being able to dovetail like this with an existing team requires expertise and experience built over many years, meaning you can extend your capabilities without the need for large scale investment.
  • Faster time to market:Very often, the success of a new product development project depends on being first to market. Using extra product or technology design expertise from an external consultancy team can reduce time to market.To achieve this, you can either outsource the entire product design element of the project or just key elements that are outside the expertise of your in-house team.
  • Focus on your core business:If product design is not the core focus of your business, you won’t want to invest time and money in your own specialist product design team.The right consultants can “be” your product design team for as long as is necessary. Over time, they will feel like an integral part of your business.
  • Current specialist expertise: A successful product design consultancy will be on top of the latest tools and techniques, and be masters of modern tools and technologies.By working with them you can tap into the value of this expertise without having to make the long-term investment required to maintain this specialist knowledge within your business.
  • Flexibility:Using the expertise of an external product design consultancy means that your business will be able to react quickly to changing demands.When you need to flex your resources up or down, the business efficiency and cost savings will be felt quickly.

Using e-drawings

Choosing the right consultancy

Once you understand the benefits of using an external product design consultancy, it’s decision time.

Your reasons for hiring a consultancy will be specific to your business, existing skillsets and project profile. But essentially you’re looking for a partner that can offer both breadth and depth in product design and engineering approach, skills, expertise and experience.

The qualities you’re looking for will include quantifiable expertise demonstrated by a strong track record, as well as evidence of flexibility and innovative thinking.

Here’s a checklist of criteria for selecting your ideal product design consultancy:

  • Understanding of end-to-end product development processes
  • Breadth of expertise e.g. Mechanical Design, Industrial Design, Engineering Design
  • Understanding of production engineering
  • Use of the latest software
  • Knowledge of compliance and regulations in your sector
  • Experience of prototyping processes
  • Track record in different sectors.

You need to know that your new design consultancy offers the skills and expertise you need on your project, but can also integrate with the practices and culture of your business. So it’s worth asking about the feedback and reporting processes they offer. 

Ultimately, it’s about balancing up the various criteria – as well as your budget – to establish what works for your business.

In summary

In this article we’ve explained

  • The benefits of using external design consultancy
  • The process of choosing a partner that best fits with your culture and requirements
  • The importance of establishing your core objective e.g.
    • Managing project overflow
    • Adding new skills and expertise
    • Focusing on your core business or other priorities.

Next steps

For further advice on using an external product design consultancy, speak to Cambridge Design Technology. We’re a specialist design consultancy with experience and expertise gained over decades, and a working approach which operates as a genuine partnership.

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