Prototype. Proof of concept. Production. Pilot. What does it all mean?
Before having a full-blown product, there’s a process you have to go through to make sure your technical and functional aspects actually work and that there’s even a general interest in your product. The ideal path to help mitigate risk, refine the scope and cut down on costs later on is:
- Proof of concept (PoC)
This path helps you and your manufacturing partner identify the strengths and weaknesses of your product.
What is a Proof of Concept?
The PoC is used to test the design idea or assumption you’re making with your invention. The main purpose is to demonstrate functionality and verify that you’re on the right track. You should use your PoC to identify any technical or functional stumbling blocks you might face during the manufacturing process and figure out how to overcome them.
What is a Prototype?
A prototype provides a more “complete” picture of what you invention will be like and what the production process will be like.
The difference between a PoC and a Prototype can be confusing as they’re often used interchangeably and incorrectly. The PoC is to be used to show a product or feature can be developed, a prototype shows how it will be. The main difference between a prototype run and a pilot run is that you’re mainly just checking for the feasibility of the product during the prototyping phase. You look at the functionality, how does it look, how does it feel, and what you’re relationships think of the product.
Neither a PoC or prototype should be considered production quality.
What is a Pilot?
The pilot refers to the initial roll-out of a product with a limited scope of the intended final solution. The best reason for a pilot is to learn how to operate an innovation before it goes to the end-users. When you have a pilot, you’re trying the innovation for real and making sure all those little aspects work as intended. From there, you can begin to prepare for production. This make sure you have the product where you want it to be. You’ll run a multiple of the same product, give to your testers and have them test the functionality.
Once you realize your product is ready, solves a problem and doesn’t have glaring technical or function issues, you can begin the production process.
PoCs, prototypes and pilots are all important parts of the production process. A prototype is more of a one-off to see the functionality. A pilot run is to get feedback from potential customers. You need to use them deliberately and methodically to see real value from them and consciously record the results to create real, usable, actionable information.