Manufacturers of all sizes need to launch new products and technologies with minimal resources and short time-to-market in order to stay ahead of the competition and capture the opportunity when it is there. It is at the beginning of the product life cycle where profits are the highest. Once the product becomes commodity, competition will drive the margins down. The Stage-Gate methodology was pioneered by Dr. Robert Cooper. The basic benefits of this approach are to make sure that product development spending is done on the right products and all aspects related to new product launch are addressed in parallel. It also ensures that the stakeholders (operations, sales, engineering, supply chain and of course senior management) are aligned and working in harmony. The following list shows some of the critical aspects of new product launch that the Stage-Gate process addresses:

· Addressable market size and share
· Impact on P&L projections
· Time to market
· Product development and manufacturing costs including prototype, validation and industrialization
· Manufacturing resources, both in staffing and equipment
· Environmental, Health and Safety concerns
· Packaging considerations
· Supply chain
· Field trials
· Customer approvals
· Regulatory approvals
· Marketing and promotion related costs

In large corporations with hundreds or even thousands of simultaneous product development initiatives, large and complex systems are used to manage the process. One such system is Sopheon’s Accolade intended for businesses with revenues of $50M and up.

Our experience includes managing corporate wide implementation of Accolade in Fortune 500 companies. Systems like this help manage the complex processes typically found in large corporations. However, a structured approach such as the Stage Gate methodology has many benefits for small business as well: reduced investments in new product development and minimized time-to-market.  For small businesses the procedures are much simpler and can be managed through, for example, a well-designed excel based system.

Based on our extensive experience with both small and large companies, we can help small to medium sized manufacturing companies select the best process and procedure to manage new product launch.