Productization denial

When I talk to long-time colleagues about what we do here at Zebulon Solutions, a typical answer is,  “Good luck with that; most folks won’t know they have a problem until it’s too late.” Not strictly true, but also not that far of the mark, unfortunately.  It is in fact common for startups and even established companies to view the transition from ten working prototypes to volume manufacturing as no-big deal.  It is common for the business plan to include zero dollars for this.  And its all to common for the philosophy to be hey that’s why we have a contract manufacturer.

To be fair it very much depends on the nature and maturity of the technology / products.  For mature technologies and / or mature product lines, bringing the n+1 variant of the product into production is in truth not hat difficult.  But we tend to gravitate toward the “weird s___” products and technologies, typically unproven, typically complex, typically falling into the if it was easy someone else would have already done it category.  Yet even for companies who know they have something new, something novel, something complicated, this denial of the productization magnitude is still disturbingly prevalent.

The reasons for this denial are many. Over commitment from a contract manufacturer, who, in order to win a piece of business in today’s tough economy, may well say “I can do that.” Financial pushback is another common root cause, but eliminating the cost form forecasts does not necessarily eliminate the cost from actuals. Academic or R&D centric development teams with little experience in putting such products into productions also can be too blame.

Some questions organizations can ask themselves to see if they are at risk of productization denial:

  • Is my technology mature?
  • Is my product a variant of an existing, proven product?
  • Has my most senior operations executive launched dozens of new products of a similar complexity and maturity into production?
  • Have I seen a manufacturing line where my CM will build this that is building similar products already?
  • Have I budgeted and planned for production test development? Design validation testing?
  • Have I done a DFMEA?  A PFMEAs? A DFx review?

Lots of YESs, sleep well; too many NOs, better rethink.



  • Mike Shipulski

    Nice post, Chuck. I like your bulletized list of real-world tests. In general, it comes down to the level of newness. If it’s 20% new, okay. But 80% is not. With that said, even a little newness can be a problem if it’s the right flavor.

    For example here are some relatively “low newness” changes that can cause big problems: a new material (same geometries as before) that cannot be processed by existing equipment; new holes orthoginal to the old ones (new machines or new tooling technologies); and even a conversion of an existing product from hand assembly to automated assembly.

    Thanks for your post.


  • Chuck

    Amazing how the 80 / 20 rule applies to just about everything we do in engineering and in business, eh? Totally agree, and also about the/ if you design in even a gram of unobtanium you got problems/ thesis as well. Sometimes the changes that are so small as to slip past a proper review are the ones that trip us up, for sure.


  • Masato

    Za pravilaja na iagrta li, obicham da gi narushavam, samo provokativno, inache shte se promeni iagrta, a tova ne e sushtoto.Naprimer Jose Maurinio s Chelsea be bog, s Real sushto, i s Inter sled 40g da se specheli otnovo shampionskata kupa! Za privurjenicite na LEVSKI na vsichki vremena tova sa fenomenalni postijenija.Kakvo e moderen marketing? Dori i Az napisah na computera pervo Maurinjo za da mi varvi na hubavi fisionomyi !!!

Leave a Comment