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The Engineering Curmudgeon - Blog

Providing Innovative Solutions to Complex Engineering Problems

The Phase-Gate Project Management Process Explained

The Phases
phase-gate strip 
(see graphic larger)

    1. Feasibility (Discovery)
      In-depth analysis of market segments, trends, buying patterns and competition; needs assessment; formulation of an intellectual property strategy; analytical modeling and value analysis; compliance assessment and coordination with business and technology strategy.
    2. Proof of Concept
      Mechanical, electrical and system breadboards; specification development, performance demonstration, product cost and production investment analysis.
    3. Design Development and Verification
      Complete component and system design, build, performance test and reliability test.
    4. Manufacturing Process Development and Verification
      Process development and statistical capability verification; cycle time, capacity, investment and labor cost analysis; insure compatibility of design requirements and manufacturing capabilities.
    5. Product Launch                                                       Capital investment planning and execution, production implementation and product validation                                                         

Feasibility (Discovery)

Effective innovation always starts with systematic research and an understanding of market needs. Innovative Thermal Solutions prefers to initiate projects in consultation with our clients to explore what they want to achieve from a business standpoint. Our marketing professionals can help you start with a firm foundation for a new product or service. We are experienced in methods and tools, as well as history, industry developments and customer behaviors in target market segments.

      • We will research and prepare analyses of trends, buying behaviors, current solutions and competitors to determine the nature of the environment into which a product will be introduced.
      • A needs assessment will assist in narrowing product specification, performance attributes and viability. Other beginning-phase considerations include formulation of your intellectual property strategy as well as analytical modeling and value analysis.
      • We believe new opportunities abound, however, innovation requires a fact-based foundation. Before time, energy and money are spent building prototypes and offering promises, we strongly urge clients to allow our engineers to construct some simple models around fundamental product parameters – fluid, thermodynamic, mechanical, and electrical.

It may surprise you to learn that the cost of discovery and definition is remarkably small, usually just 5 to 15 percent of the total cost of the product development effort. It's money well spent and eventually pays for itself in reduced levels of engineering and testing. For us to maximize our contribution and fulfill our core promise of project speed and accuracy, we must work together to formulate the product strategy and specifications while developing a project plan to achieve those goals.


Proof of Concept

We'll show you how our solution works … and why. Fully staffed and equipped workshops are available to produce proof of concepts and prototypes of your product, allowing you and your customers to fully comprehend the product, its value and promise. Using our tools, we can reduce the total development time and expose critical design issues early in the cycle. Innovative Thermal Solutions has a wealth of experience in this process for many types of mechanical and thermal systems and projects.

As you prepare to utilize proof of concepts and prototypes to validate a product concept, a test plan is critical for maintaining a timetable and budget. Another key factor is access to the equipment necessary. Our resources are unrivaled.

    • State-of-the-art sound chambers, controlled ambient rooms, calorimeters and air-flow tunnels allow us to administer a comprehensive plan to ensure critical tests are passed early in the program.
    • Our mechanical labs promise product performance and quality. The team's expertise includes fatigue and failure analysis, sound and vibration, materials evaluation, and chemical analysis.
    • We know our way around sensing and recording. Our systems have the capacity for rapid and voluminous data collection, and our broadband connection makes communicating with clients, regardless of location, a snap. Most importantly, our engineers possess the skill to transform data into information.

Our labs are certified to perform internationally recognized agency tests, and we continue to expand evaluation services into all areas of electrical, food, industrial and life science safety. Finally, Innovative Thermal Solutions remains at its heart a client-driven organization. Because of this, we have an accommodating perspective on customized proof of concept. From apparatus and materials to data analysis and field trial market research, we can apply a range of special skills.

Design Development and Verification

We know how to accelerate your rate of innovation, and we use more than rapid computational and simulation techniques to do so. Innovative Thermal Solutions employs an integrated approach involving industrial design, mechanical and thermal analysis, materials selection, electrical systems and controls. Our tools, personnel and experience provide for rapid and accurate component and system engineering. Our affiliates include controls engineers with experience ranging from breadboard layout to PLC programming to design and fully documented specification of embedded controllers. Our materials expertise includes metals, plastics, fibers, insulation, adhesives, coatings and treatments.

Our team's broad application knowledge and inside relationships with leading equipment manufacturers afford Innovative Thermal Solutions a perspective helpful in both cost reduction and performance optimization. We provide concurrent design and modeling throughout product development by supporting popular 2-D and 3-D CAD platforms. Our designers work with all facets of the system: structural, surfaces, piping, electrical, assembly, motion and tooling.

Process Development and Verification

No matter how well a product design performs, it isn’t a good design if it can’t be manufactured with high quality in a cost effective process. Manufacturing processes must be selected during product design and development. Any manufacturing process development required should be identified early in the project, assuring compatibility between design requirements, design specifications, and manufacturing capabilities. Whether it is called concurrent engineering, simultaneous engineering, or as we prefer just engineering, it is imperative to the success of the product that design engineering and manufacturing engineering work closely together during the Design Development and Process Development phases. Innovative Thermal Solutions has extensive experience managing projects and developing products in a collaborative engineering environment.

Product Launch and Validation

In a competitive, global marketplace, launching a new product successfully takes an extraordinary effort. We can help. The manufacturing launch of new products can be simple - as with product extensions - and it can be complex. We can assist in evaluation and planning for the launch and put consultants on site for process piloting and production implementation.

To assist with a commercial launch, we offer product positioning and pricing services. We can extend revenue streams by helping clients determine a product's life cycle and future growth. Innovative Thermal Solutions can also assist in early customer feedback, working with early adopters to fine tune market acceptance and ensure product validation.  

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