Seven keys to unlocking successful product development

October 2021

To bring innovation to life, you must move effectively from vision to market. Helbling experts have observed that this is becoming increasingly relevant, especially in view of ever new technological possibilities such as the Internet of Things. This is less about the technology to build prototypes or where you install your serial production. With their many years of experience, the experts have identified seven hurdles along the way and emphasize that success is about the mindset and the methods used in development. 

Over the last 58 years, Helbling has developed and still is developing products for and with customers from a wide variety of business fields. Many of our developments have been introduced to market and have brought success and growth to our customers. Developments can be physical devices as well as virtual products/software. Helbling with its team of experts, has for years developed various products: consumer goods from coffee machines to power tools; professional equipment such as a restaurant milk frothing device or a tool grinding machine; medical equipment including injection pens and drug pumps for diabetes care, smart mobile devices for monitoring the progression of ophthalmic disease for home use, as well as point-of-care diagnostic and therapeutic instruments for a diverse range of indications; and software, for example: a mobile app for service technicians. 

Over the last few years, product development has gained in dynamics, partly due to the following trends: First, a very dynamic start-up scene has become a major factor in industry growth. Second, user interfaces have shifted from buttons to touch displays, and the possibilities for user interaction are as varied as the range of apps for an iPhone. Third, the Internet of Things opens up a whole new world of features, options, and opportunities. 

With many years of experience and its position at the forefront of modern trends, Helbling has identified the following seven keys as essential for successful product development. These factors are solutions to problems that companies face again and again in the process of product development.

Be user-centered in your development

The goal of any development is to create a product which is successful in the market bought by the end user. This implies that any development must have a constant focus on the end user. Helbling’s development process therefore uses design thinking and usability engineering methods to implement end-user needs and benefits. Any development shall find the sweet spot where feasibility, desirability, viability, and sustainability meet.

Stay focused; don’t get bogged down

Most of today’s and tomorrow’s products are complex systems. A major key factor in achieving a homogeneous system is to actively manage the system definition and the stakeholders participating in the development. Unite heterogeneous, interdisciplinary teams to work towards a clear focus and a common vision. Define clear responsibilities as a key to bringing innovation to life. Helbling strongly advocates the system responsibility in one hand.

Think before acting

Developing a system starts with understanding the processes that define the system. Innovative systems typically use new, unknown processes and it is important to understand these processes before designing a product around them. Helbling therefore includes physicists, chemists, and other scientists early in the development process. The better the process and system is understood, the more focused the innovation can be developed and brought to market.

Divide and conquer your challenges

What has proven successful in warfare for centuries is also applicable to successful product development. Yes, monolithic complex systems are very difficult to develop, and fully modular products are too expensive. One must find the sweet spot in dividing the system into reasonable subsystems that can efficiently be developed and tested as standalone to ease the integration into the greater context.

KISS: keep it simple, stupid

Even though mastering complex systems is the dream of every engineer, true quality is in keeping systems as simple as possible. Complex systems typically accumulate sub-functions. The art of good system engineering is to integrate sub-functions into a system that is consistent and simple overall. Do not succumb to temptation and end up with feature overload – just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

Create quality through iteration

Today’s rapid prototyping technology enables you to try out your designs and ideas in a hands-on way. Make use of this. Fast iterations, i.e. test runs, on “real” products will provide you valuable insights, increasing the quality of your design, as well as improving accuracy of your simulation models by enabling you to create a model-real world alignment.

Design a beautiful product around valuable functions – not vice versa

Design is key, especially for today’s younger generations. Industrial design must be an integrated part of systems engineering and not a side process. Systems engineering defines and integrates processes and functions into a well-functioning technical system. Industrial design turns this technical system into a beautiful product.

Conclusion: Clever, professional product development enables market success. 

Helbling has found that development projects that keep to these seven keys result in consumer‑centered, beautiful, high-quality products that are successful in the market, such as the Nespresso Pixie machine.

Plus. By following the seven keys, projects are focused and make efficient use of development resources such as investments, manpower, and time-to-market. 


Authors: Dominik von Rohr, Lorenz Klauser, Rainer Maisch, Gabriel Sutter


Rainer Maisch

Stationsstrasse 12
3097 Liebefeld-Bern

Gabriel Sutter

Hubstrasse 24
9500 Wil

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