Our Discovery Process: 3 Steps That Lend Meaning to Manufacturing

Discovery process

Our Discovery Process: 3 Steps That Lend Meaning to Manufacturing

When Alchemy Industrial engages a new customer, the very first thing we do is begin a process we call Discovery.

The Discovery session may last only an hour, or it may be several hours long, depending on the complexity of the product. The purpose is to gain a comprehensive understanding of what we’re building, why we’re making it, and how best to proceed.

Discovery allows us to uncover challenges and explore solutions before the product progresses to scaled manufacturing. By fine-tuning the design for manufacturing (DFM), assembly, and ability to scale early on, we avoid future problems that may impact the product’s success.

Our Discovery process consists of three steps:

  • Understand the product’s position in the marketplace
  • Identify the product’s winning edges
  • Plan the next steps necessary for manufacturing the product

Discovery Step #1: Product Positioning 

Step one is all about understanding the product’s intrinsic value, which is critical to manufacturing a high-quality, profitable product.

An in-depth connection to the product’s purpose enables us to refine it with DFM and design for assembly (DFA) at the forefront, ensuring that the manufactured product can accomplish what it promises with minimal friction.

During step one, we begin by asking questions like:

Discovery process

  • What problems does the product solve?
  • Who is currently experiencing those problems?
  • What gaps currently exist in the marketplace?

Let’s explore an example where Alchemy Industrial will manufacture a battery system. During Discovery, we learn that the battery system will help power critical home electronics in a sustained electricity outage. This information inspires deeper insight into the product’s vital purpose, which will inform our manufacturing approach, our customer’s go-to-market strategy, and the end customer’s experience with the product.

At this point, we ask more probative questions, such as:

  • What is the target market?
  • Who is the ideal customer?

We can work closely with our customers to help them define their ideal buyer as precisely as possible. From demographics to geography to shopping habits and beyond, we typically identify a half-dozen or more detailed descriptors of this priority market and end user.

Discovery Step #2: Winning Edges

In step two, we focus on identifying what will make the product stand out and succeed in the marketplace—its “winning edges.” 

The more accurately we understand a product’s place in the market, the better equipped we are to manufacture a product that fills market gaps and earns a loyal audience of buyers.

A product’s winning edges may include wide-ranging factors such as retail price, ease of use, visual appeal, or operating cost. To identify a specific product’s winning edges, we engage in a brainstorming session with the customer, discussing what makes the product great and how it compares to similar products on the market. 

Alchemy Industrial has had success using perceptual maps to diagram a product’s attributes as they compare to competitor products. Perceptual mapping (also called “market mapping”) results in a visual representation of the perception customers have (or will have) of a product amidst similar products. 

Perceptual maps define product attributes along two or more axes, such as:

  • Size vs. capacity
  • Quality vs. price
  • Functionality vs. form
  • Usability vs. reliability

Wherever we find negative space on a perceptual map, we evaluate those market gaps for opportunities to make the product even more successful. 

Imagine that Alchemy Industrial is manufacturing a camera system. In the customer’s initial design, the system powers at a high voltage level, requiring a qualified electrician to oversee installation. Through perception mapping, we discover that we can reduce the system power to below 24 volts without impacting the product’s functionality. This change eliminates the need for costly professional installation, reduces friction for the end user, and enhances the system’s “winning edge.”

As this example demonstrates, understanding a product’s opportunities to “win” in the marketplace equips the Alchemy Industrial team to tailor the design and manufacturing strategies with those winning edges in mind.

Discovery Step #3: Next Steps

The final step in Discovery is to discuss the upcoming technical requirements, engineering files, manufacturing strategy, and supply chain planning. We don’t create these documents during Discovery. Still, by having detailed conversations about each upcoming step, we identify opportunities to implement Design for Manufacturing best practices and ensure a product is ready to scale.

In many cases, this planning process even drives us back to Discovery steps one and two, where we further fine-tune the product’s positioning and value.

“Absolutely Critical”: The Importance of Discovery

In episode 20 of the Manufacture Houston podcast, Alchemy Industrial co-founder, Mush Khan, describes Discovery as an “invaluable, absolutely critical” step of our onboarding process with each new customer or project. While Discovery isn’t always a lengthy process (small jobs are very simple to evaluate), it is always an important one.

Thanks to our Discovery process, we regularly achieve impactful feats of engineering, manufacturing, and supply chain management for influential companies and their impressive product lines.

We would love to begin Discovery for your next product!

Request a quote to start creating.