Is the physical prototype obsolete?
By Mark Milton, Country Manager in Denmark for EDRMedeso
Digitization, digital transformation and innovation are notions we constantly hear about in the media from politicians and in our daily work. Certainly, that is a positive thing, because we must move forward and continue to create new, innovative products with superb quality.
Most companies have a clear focus on digitization in many respects. Yet too many companies have an old-fashioned and quite analogue approach when it comes to testing and securing the quality of their products. Everyone who has worked in product development over the last decades is well aware that the physical prototype is a dinosaur, alive and kicking. And we are not talking about an alert predator. We are looking at a large, drowsy herbivore – inoffensive, slow and eating a lot of budgets. But why settle for the pre-historic when the future is already here?
Business as usual, unfortunately
On second thought, it is easy to understand why so many companies hold on to the physical prototype: The method is well-known, and it has been the best (and only) way for designing products and performing quality assurance. Also, change can be frightening at times. However, by demonstrating a little bravery, you can save time and money, test more products, increase quality, shorten time-to-market and ultimately increase innovation. To do that, you must abandon the “business as usual”-approach.
The process of testing and quality assurance is often very lengthy when it comes to physical prototypes. If, for instance, you would like to test how wear and tear over a 10-year period affects an industrial product, it may require a testing period of up to 18 months. Often it is not even possible to test all the types of environments in which the product can be deployed.
Another challenge is that you do not always get insights about what actually happens inside the product during a test. If an internal component stops functioning, it is not certain that you will know at exactly what load that happened. In summary, testing physical prototypes is a process that is both expensive, time-consuming and at times inaccurate.
With digital prototypes, you avoid the slow and tedious process of producing new prototypes for each alteration. You can test and adjust directly in the digital prototype and thereby get answers much quicker. And who wouldn’t like that?
Digital prototypes and simulation: A winning formula
The companies that succeed in utilizing digitization to the maximum extent will experience a giant leap. And although you can easily find many pre-historic dinosaurs, you can also now find companies that have shown how to optimize both design and product development with digitization. In the Nordic region, there are many excellent examples of companies that have managed to take simulation one step further. The Danish company Grundfos has indeed elevated the use of digitization and simulation. They are using it for both developing completely new service models as well as for simulation-driven product development.
While many frontrunners, such as Grundfos, are already ahead, most companies in the Nordic region have still not started this journey. So, it is essential that far more Nordic companies apply digitization all the way into their design and product development processes. Otherwise, we will be surpassed by skilled and fast-moving global companies from around the globe. And the first step: Put the physical prototype to rest.
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