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5 Tips For Fostering Innovation In Hardware Businesses

Professionals that want to inject innovation into their hardware business can face a lot of pushback. There is no magic wand to implement change, but here are some tips that can certainly help.

Fostering innovation with new technologies is a difficult task for hardware businesses. This is true if you are a large business with legacy processes or an agile startup that needs to be  judicious with its funds. Hardware companies of all sizes face similar challenges when it comes to product development and fostering innovation. Finding strategies to overcoming these hurdles is key as significant hardware innovation is needed to reach the full potential of Industry 4.0.

This is because all  hardware development requires a disciplined approach due to the high costs of production. Therefore, every hardware company must set up a system where a series of “micro-failures” can eventually lead to success.  Experimentation is part of the game, but so is smart resource allocation for specific endeavors and creating a culture where diverse talented  people are not afraid to fail or communicate. 

We’ve collected some tips from our dealings with customers and our Launchpad events on how to decrease your time-to-market for hardware products. Before we dive in, we should mention that there is no silver bullet to achieving this quickly. In fact, it may take substantial time and effort to create an atmosphere to foster innovation in your hardware business.

Here are five key tips for fostering innovation & getting your products to market faster:

1. Embrace Failure:  Failure is a key component of innovation and improvement. Trial and error are part of any product development process, and without accepting this reality you risk becoming immobile. 

Failure is part of the work towards establishing an encouraging atmosphere that fuels innovation in hardware businesses.
Failure is part of the work towards establishing an encouraging atmosphere that fuels innovation in hardware businesses.

In the case of startups, failure cannot be something you hide from as it is through an agile approach of constant trials and errors that you will make game-changing products.  

Large companies also need to embrace failure and be willing to try new approaches. Making use of failure to obtain insights is a must for any hardware company seeking to develop new, competitive products. Of course, this does not mean that hardware companies should embrace uncontrolled failure in their chase for innovation. Learnings must be gained with rules and timelines attached to ensure valuable insights. 

2. Set aside a budget for experimentation: Set aside some money for experimentation. Through experimentation companies learn and gain the insights necessary to innovate. A budget fort this purpose will encourage employees to innovate and take calculated risks.

Creating a budget is a great tip to promote innovation in a hardware business.
Creating a budget is a great tip to promote innovation in a hardware business.

There is no magic number or percentage for this experimentation budget. You need to decide what is appropriate for your business. Whether you choose to set aside a small budget for a few experimentation projects, or decide to fund an innovation center, the choice is yours.  What’s most important is to choose a financially responsible approach that allows you to yield useful insights and learnings. 

3. Don’t build too many prototypes: There’s always a desire to move faster when developing a new product. Technology can enable this speed, but it is not an excuse to be careless. It’s important to make good use of your time and introduce design to manufacturability principles from the get-go, even if it means a few extra weeks or months for development. 

Hardware business can promote innovation by introducing design to manufacturability principles and taking their time.
Hardware business can promote innovation by introducing design to manufacturability principles and taking their time.

Hardware is expensive, so it’s better to build 100 prototypes (rather than 10,000) for testing, and then make enhancements. If you produce too many prototypes in the beginning, it removes your ability to make incremental enhancements on an ongoing basis. 

4. Build the right team: It’s important to build a team with a range of skill sets that will enable you to meet product and market demands. 

Building the right team is key to promoting an environment where innovation takes place.
Building the right team is key to promoting an environment where innovation takes place.

In large or mid-size organizations, once you have identified key team members, an Innovation Manager can be a catalyst for incentivizing change. This does not have to be a full-time employee, and can be outsourced as a consultant. 

For startups, it’s important to include team members with the right knowledge, expertise and adaptive mindset, to limit your chances of being blindsided by unexpected issues and that can handle the risk plus changes associated with nascent businesses .

5. Foster open communication: Hardware companies should establish a culture where people can express their concerns openly, and embrace discussion. Lack of open communication will impact your development timelines and stifle innovation, but also affect a company’s culture. 

Open communication is necessary when establishing an ambiance of innovation in any business.
Open communication is necessary when establishing an ambiance of innovation in any business.

A clear sense of vision and purpose will help for better communication, and promoting innovation in a hardware business of any size. A clear purpose and well-defined goals will leave less room for miscommunication. They will bring your teams together and ensure all teams are aligned in the same direction. 

In Conclusion:

There are many tips out there for how to best inject innovation you can bring products to market faster. These, however, are the tips we found to be most relevant in today’s increasingly changing, digital and agile world. This suggestions can give your business more buoyancy and keep risk to a minimum. 

We urge you to act with confidence, but to also be ready to face the unknown. All companies face unique challenges and the key is to be able to adapt these insights to your own reality. These five tips should help you feel better prepared to develop your products in today’s fast paced market. 

Are you a hardware business looking for an innovative solution that can lower your time to market, manufacturing costs and that requires no upfront investment?

Cloud manufacturing might just be right for your business.

To find out more download our playbook today: “Bringing Hardware Products To Market Faster With Cloud Manufacturing.”

Do you want to keep up with all the happenings in hardware innovation? Signup for our highly popular monthly newsletter, where we give you the rundown on all things manufacturing, and hardware innovation.

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