There comes a point in the life cycle of every product when concepts, renderings and doodles on scraps of paper must be evaluated for their efficacy. This is the moment when proposed solutions are either accepted or scrapped, and the best concepts move forward to the next phase in the product development process.
The conceptual engineering phase is crucial for product development success. Most products are born from the need to address a clearly defined problem. The conceptual engineering phase exists to provide engineers with the opportunity to:
— Brainstorm and bring forward proposed solutions to the problem
— Collect and analyze data, facts and figures related to each proposal
— Understand the resources and costs related to each proposed solution
— Use data to debate and deliberate the strengths and weaknesses of each proposal
Conceptual engineering is not for the faint of heart. It can be a brutal, no-hold-barred, bare-knuckled process during which every element of every concept is examined in-depth. Feelings are set aside in favor of facts. The project’s budget and the company’s finances become more important than friendships. If it was a competition — and in many ways it is — it would be fierce, survival of the fittest with the best ideas surviving and moving on to the next phase in the development process.
In the end, everyone is confident enough in the ideas that survive the conceptual engineering phase of the product development process that they are willing to invest valuable time, resources and money to move the project forward.
After the conceptual engineering phase is complete, realistic models are created to test function, movement and look. Prototypes are created to test strength and material viability. Ultimately, a concept is determined to be cost-efficient, practical and marketable. It may be a product that was originally promoted during the conceptual engineering phase. Or, it may be a completely different product that was brought forward in the conceptual engineering phase. However, one thing is certain: It will have been thoroughly vetted and provide a solution to a clearly defined problem.