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Development 101

By: Shoaib Arif
Posted: November 7, 2006, from the November 2006 issue of GCI Magazine.

New product development is a major activity for personal care product manufacturers. Developing new products that satisfy customer needs and meet market requirements is essential to the growth and development of the business. For developing new products, it is important to have in-depth knowledge of the market, market segments, major players, current and future trends, and similarities and differences in various regions of the global market.

New product development starts with a concept or an idea, and is taken step-by-step to a point where the idea is turned into a commercial product. The development of the idea into a commercial product generally flows this way:

1. Brainstorming for new product idea.
Although anyone can participate in this part of product development, the person conducting this session must have sound knowledge of the market, its major players and consumer expectations.

2. Select the best ideas for turning into a commercial product.
The selected ideas must comply with a company’s overall business strategy, current and future market trends, and customer needs. A detailed market study and customer input are important aspects for this part of the project.

3. Form a project team.
The team should include people from R&D, marketing, sales, plant and finance. A team leader must be selected as well.

4. Write a detailed, start-to-finish flow chart for the project.
Establish the responsibilities, milestones and target completion dates. Various software applications are available to help plan, organize and control a project.

5. Define and write a detailed product description.
A product description should include decisive statements about product characteristics—color, odor, appearance, and viscosity, for example. See an example in the box on the following page.

6. Put together some prototype formulas in the lab.
This is where the art of formulation is an important aspect of the project, complementing the science. The formulator must be experienced and knowledgeable in both. Formulators are mini businessmen as well. They know the current and future market trends. What will appeal to a consumer? What are the most important criteria for customers? Who are the major players in that market segment and what are their products? How are they advertising and positioning various categories of their product line?

An experienced formulator keeps an eye on the patent landscape and technical literature in industry journals and magazines. What is happening in the real world? Who is doing what? How can you leverage the knowledge that exists and use it to develop a successful new product? Formulators also know about the raw material suppliers, their products and have an idea about the prices of various raw materials that constitute a formula. They know how and when to partner with a raw material supplier. Knowledge of raw material cost is important because in today’s business environment, performance is only a part of a successful product. Cost is another important factor that determines the success of a product. Ultimately, it is cost/performance that counts—not just the performance or the cost alone.

It also is important to know the capabilities of the plant. What can or cannot be processed in the plant. How to leverage the outside Toll manufacturers, contract analytical laboratories, consultants and competitors is an important aspect of product development in today’s global marketplace.