Frank Piepenbring
Manager Innovation Process Design
Festo Corp.
Esslingen, Germany

To ensure products will meet customer needs as well as our own high-quality standards, Festo Corp. has devised a six-phase product-development process. In the first phase (Phase 0), product managers, together with sales people and key customers, draw up specifications and define market requirements. The managers then work with the research-and-development staff and a chosen project manager to carry out a rough cost/benefit analysis and, if appropriate, technical feasability studies. The main focus of this phase is to outline product requirements and evaluate the new product’s business opportunities.

The product manager then passes the baton onto the project manager, who initiates the next phase, project clarification and planning (Phase 1). The manager assembles a team and they set out detailed objectives. Then development engineers clarify the technical principles and features. All of this helps define performance specifications. Value-management specialists then join the team and they analyze production costs. Weak points are evaluated with the help of technical experts using failure-mode-and-effects analysis (FMEA), and the team assesses risks and defines measures to reduce those risks. In addition, specialists use drawings for consultation and simulation. Finally, under the project manager’s guidance, the team defines and approves the project, along with its budget and schedule.

Phase 2 is product implementation. Engineers decide how the device will be built and whether to buy components or design and build them in-house. And if the work is done in-house, the component is designed so that it can be reused in other future projects. For example, while developing a motion controller, Festo engineers had to design a single-field controller for dc motors. But there’s a good chance the controller will also be used in electrical grippers, rotary or servodrives with external control units, and stepper motors.
Members of the prototype department, with the help of engineering drawings and circuit diagrams, then create prototypes. Specialists in the testing department subject the prototypes to rigorous evaluations. Short-term tests ensure performance specifications are met and that the device will withstand the operational environment. Long-term tests are aimed at determining the service life of the device and its components. By the end of Phase 2, the product has earned technical approval.

In Phase 3, production qualification starts off with a pilot-run series. This is where production and assembly concepts are combined with procurement and acceptance of equipment and testing apparatus. The result is assembly and production approval.

In Phase 4, initial stock is built up and Q-testing and final quality inspection are carried out. If the device is approved, it moves on to series production and is then available on the market.

The most important part of Phase 5 is the product audit carried out six to 12 months after market launch. In this audit, the company gathers and analyzes information regarding customer complaints and surveys, supply capabilities, and manufacturing costs to see if the product or process can be improved.

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