Using Low-Volume Runs to Eliminate High-Volume Failures

Created: January 4, 2020
Updated: April 5, 2021

“High volume” is a relative term. It depends upon what your business does and how many of a product you plan to sell. For one OEM, a minimum initial run might be 250K units. For another, 10K is the expected run of a product across its entire market life.
 
One way to consider “high volume” is that it’s large enough to hurt your business if you make a mistake. Put another way, high volume is high risk. And given the stakes, you want to minimize this risk.

 
One method many OEMs use to reduce risk is to start with a low-volume run of a new product. This approach is effective in that it lets you work the kinks out along the entire manufacturing process. The basic idea is that you get product into the hands of a controlled number of customers. Some of them may be aware that they are receiving an alpha or beta product. They use the product, and you see what kinds of issues arise. Some might be manufacturing problems. Others might be errors in code.
 
A common problem is that you got the use cases incorrect and didn’t really understand how your customer was planning on using your product. Sometimes this can be catastrophic, meaning that the product fails to address customer needs and so won’t sell. If you had an entire warehouse of product already manufactured, this represents a high-volume failure that could seriously damage your company.
 
By working with an initial low volume, you can minimize the scope of your risk. You can make things right with customers who have problems and, consequently, eliminate the problems for the rest of your customers.
 
There’s another aspect to consider as well. When a high-risk decision needs to be made, such as saying yes to high volume production of a new product, carefulness can expand into indecision that severely impacts time-to-market. Taking a low-volume approach allows you to test your product in the most thorough of test environments: with your customer. This way you can have confidence when you decide to start high volume production.
 
Testing the waters with a low-volume approach does not just avoid failure. Oftentimes it can lead to improvement as well. Consider a customer who gives you feedback about a simple change or feature that would significantly increase the usability, accuracy, or efficiency of your design. Instead of having to sell through a warehouse full of product first, you can implement the feature for this release of the product.
 
With today’s automated manufacturing technology, it has become cost-effective to take a low-volume approach to a product launch and substantially curtail your risk. Gumstix enables you to design custom boards built on proven technology. With a short turnaround time, you can produce a low volume of boards to test a product with customers based on your company’s specific risk and volume needs. If you uncover any issues, you can quickly and easily modify your hardware design to address them. In this way, you minimize your risk and maximize your potential for high-volume success.
 
Take a look at some Gumstix customer success stories or contact Gumstix today to learn more about their products, design tools, and services. Or try out Upverter, their customized module design tool, for yourself.

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