When the time comes to take your inventive product idea from concept to reality, it’s important to choose a product design firm that can partner with you on every step of the process. With so many different companies offering so many different services, how should you go about choosing the right firm for you?

To choose an engineering services firm, the best place to start is to have a good idea what exactly an engineering services firm is.  A product design firm (also known as an engineering firm) helps bring product ideas to life through all stages of product design, development and manufacturing. Services offered by such companies typically include product design, product analysis, design documentation, prototyping and production.  Some product design services might offer more or less services, but the offerings above are the most common.  Though many offer the same services, product design firms can vary greatly.  Below are 6 questions you should ask when choosing a product design firm.

Does the engineering services firm offer one-stop-shop capabilities?

Choosing an engineering firm for a design project can have significant implications.  How a project is designed and engineered in the early stages can affect costs, performance and quality throughout the entire lifecycle of the project.  As such, it’s important to find a firm that can cover all aspects of your product development needs to insure the process is seamless and cohesive. Ideally, it’s best to work with a company that can help you with all steps of the process, from early concept generation through production, and every step in between. Having to deal with different vendors in different stages of the design process can create issues down the road, so look for engineering services firms that have a robust service offering.

Does the company have a portfolio so that you may review their past work?

Client testimonials are a fantastic way to determine the caliber of a product design firm, but nothing beats the ability to review a company’s actual portfolio of work.  When you’re researching engineering firms to engage for your product design needs, as to see their product design and development work portfolio so you can see for yourself what work they’ve done in the past, and what kind of companies they’ve worked for.  As you review the portfolio, take note of the variety of products they’ve worked on, the balance between B2B products vs. B2C products (ideally, you should see a variety of both). Also look for details such as what kind of services was the engineering service company involved with for each project?  Each portfolio example should have more than images; there should be an explanation of what services were leveraged for each project.  Analysis?  Prototyping?  Design documentation? Take note of the diversity of services throughout the portfolio.

How diverse is the product design firm’s expertise?

For any project, there will come a time when a diverse set of skills and expertise are needed during a certain stage of the process.  Skills needed during product design are different than those needed during prototyping or manufacturing.  As such, an engineering firm partner should have staff a resources that have expertise in multiple areas of product design. Does the firm have design engineers, analyst, and manufacturing engineers among their resources to help during product design collaboration? Be sure to deeply research the expertise in the firm’s organization to understand who will be working on your project. Ask to review the team’s engineering services educational background to understand the level of expertise on the team.

Will the firm provide a single point of contact during the project’s duration?

Communication is a critical part of the product design process, and while there should be several experts from the engineering firm working on your project, you should only have a single point of contact during the project. This streamlines communication, creates better efficiency, and insures your point of contact understands all aspects of the engagement. If you’re speaking with a firm that offers a separate point of contact for each stage of the process, chances are they work in a silo work environment which is not conducive to ongoing collaboration.  Look elsewhere if you can’t have a single point of contact.

Do they stand behind their work?

Product design projects are dynamic by nature, and at any time during the project, scope may change, functionalities may shift, and intent of product performance may expand or contract.  Communication is critical to insure both the design firm and the client remain on the same page at all times.  However, the best way to insure good quality in the final project is a service guarantee. Committing to error-free service can help force a company to provide it.  Make sure you find a company that offers a satisfaction guarantee; it shows they’re just as committed to the success of the project as you are.

Choosing wisely when engaging the services of a product design firm will insure the success in bringing your idea to life.

Morten Jensen
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