How ERP can vastly improve your prototyping processes

A clichéd perspective on prototyping is a mad scientist at work. Add an eye of newt and have Igor stir it all up. Maybe it will work that way, but we can always stir in a pinch of flour to thicken the mixture. The truth is prototyping processes aren’t really free-form. When we make a prototype, we have a specific goal in mind and a list of constraints as long as our arms. Whether we are inventing something completely new or improving an established product, ERP can help.

Controlled processes

The best results come from controlled processes, and ERP is designed to do just that. Document what the finished prototype will look like. List the steps that you will take to get to where you want to be with the prototype. List any materials or resources that will be required. Insert quality checkpoints as needed to ensure you are moving in the right direction.

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These are the same steps required to produce an ongoing product. There are certain steps that will result in an car you can drive away. There are certain steps required to produce a medicine that will save lives. There are steps that will generate a prototype that meets your plan. ERP allows you to use a production job or batch process flow to model the prototype process. Job and project management tools are also in many ERP systems and are essential for controlled management of the prototype processes.

Customer feedback

You know the steps required to place a new model of car in the dealer showroom. However, there is a degree of uncertainty in prototyping. Your controlled process will yield the prototype you designed, but will it work the way your customer wants? ERP helps here too. Customer relationship management (CRM) is a part of most ERP systems today and can be used to create a campaign to vet your prototyping processes. Let a few select customers and prospects try it out. CRM will document the replies to your survey and help you design the next iteration of your prototype.

When we make a prototype, we have a specific goal in mind and a list of constraints as long as our arms.

Quality assurance

Those quality checkpoints you inserted in the prototyping process are critical. With a developed product, you might verify 2 centimeters or 2 volts at a certain point. With this kind of process, your quality check might be just to ensure that the prototype is going to help a customer solve a real problem. It will help ensure that you are working toward that goal with no time wasted making the prototype ready for sale.

ERP has recorded all the process steps required for the finished product. Eliminate the unnecessary work and you have a complete, well documented prototyping process that you can use right away to manufacture your new product or improve existing products.

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Tom Miller

About the author…

Tom completed implementations of Epicor, SAP, QAD, and Micro MRP. He works as a logistics and supply chain manager and he always looks for processes to improve. He lives near San Francisco Bay in California and can be found on the water in his kayak or on the road riding his motorcycle. Contact Tom at customerteam@erpfocus.com.

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Tom Miller

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