Here’s how medtech can speed up its processes and tap into innovation, courtesy of Peter Douglass, director of technical operations at Proto Labs.
Innovation in the medtech space is what every company wants. And there are many theories on how to get there.
One is that improving the speed at which you develop will naturally lead to greater and more product innovation.
We asked Peter Douglass, director of technical operations at Proto Labs (Maple Plain, Minn.) for his thoughts on how medtech can speed up its processes and how those activities tap into innovation. (Douglass will speak about this topic at DeviceTalks Boston on Oct. 2. Check out Proto Labs at Booth 103–104, too.)
MDO: Research reports have suggested that fast iteration leads to faster product launch, and therefore better market success. But does speed lead to innovation?
Peter Douglass: Absolutely! First, let’s look at it from a time savings perspective. Any reduction in your new product launch timelines is time that can be reallocated to coming up with new ideas. Teams of innovative people aren’t going to sit around twiddling their thumbs if they have extra time. Beyond time savings, speed is something that integrates quick thinking into the everyday culture. If your deadline is reduced from a month to a week you need to become super-efficient at solving problems. This sense of a “crisis” often brings out the best in the shortest amount of time. If you can install that type of thinking into an everyday practice, innovation is one of many things that will benefit.
MDO: How does the development structure or process effect a company’s innovation (i.e. agile/iterative versus waterfall/serial)?
PD: Let’s be honest, how often do we as customers get the entire scope of a project correct the first time? It’s hard to think of every detail from a blank slate. The more agile a development structure can be the more innovative the process can become. Iterating allows for enhancements and alterations throughout the process. If you instead waited for the final result you may be content, but you could have missed opportunities along the way that would have made you truly satisfied.
MDO: Can product definition and requirements building be accelerated?
PD: You can only plan for so much. Using an iterative approach allows for some gray areas when defining requirements. Once the overall plan is in place, companies waste time debating back and forth on which lower level requirements are necessary. If you allow for course corrections along the way you can start without all of the answers. In some cases, the progress may render the requirement more obvious than before or maybe even that it’s no longer valid. What benefit might there be to utilize rapid prototyping versus production builds?
MDO: What benefit might there be to using rapid prototyping versus production builds?
PD: You can test and learn! The faster you can get your product to market the sooner you can start getting user feedback. Rarely is something perfect the first time. Getting it into the hands of users can jump-start future innovation ideas. Beyond feedback, the speed and cost are very tangible benefits to prototyping that should not be overlooked.
MDO: Is it better to be an innovator or a fast follower?
PD: It’s a chicken and egg type situation. You can’t have one without the other. Studies show that you have a higher chance of being successful if you are a fast follower, but how can you follow if no one is leading? Innovation can happen at any stage and it comes down to the individual preference. Some people may thrive going from nothing to something, where others may thrive on taking something and making it better. Both are valuable and needed. Choose whichever one suits you, and start doing!
(Douglass will speak about this topic at DeviceTalks Boston on Oct. 2. Check out Proto Labs at Booth 103–104, too.)