Agile has completely transformed how software companies operate, develop, and deliver software products. Gradually, industries are realizing the positive impact. Working as per customer behavior to deliver products faster, take early feedback and iterate changes, operate as per the trends, and enhance performance is becoming the norm today.

And the result? According to a recent global report, companies started to achieve an average 60% growth in revenue and profit. But the same cannot be said for hardware development. Instead, most manufacturing firms utilize waterfall or phase-gate methodologies that lead to legacy and siloed workflow, inadequate efforts to implement changes, and poor quality assurance.

Is agile the solution? Let’s understand how agile can support hardware development.

Agile Hardware Development

Two decades ago, companies faced various bottlenecks in delivering end-user value with software product development methodologies such as the Waterfall Development Model. Consequently, they started applying new agile practices and technologies such as virtualization, microservices, and infrastructure-as-code. 

Organizations building hardware systems are in a similar position now. They can learn from these two decades of “learn, implement, fail, and iterate” and analyze and apply the insights from the previous two decades. Many hardware firms are embracing Scrum, Lean, and Kanban for hardware development. For instance, General Motors was able to reduce the launch period of the Hummer EV recently.

Prototyping in agile hardware development

A prominent aspect of Agile is developing products in short iterations. In an iteration, the teams work towards developing some form of demonstrable output in a defined period. It often involves the development of a prototype such as an early product model built to test a concept, but can be anything that gives the customers an idea of how the final product will work for the purposing of getting valuable feedback.

Once a prototype is complete in early iterations, it becomes easier for the teams to analyze and refine the definition of the product. The design becomes more and more sophisticated and valuable with each iteration.

Developing early prototypes and making changes as per customer learning is a feasible and affordable option. This approach helps with quicker feedback and reduces the needs for redesign and heroic fixes late in development when they are costly and create delays.

Keeping a check on the pace of change

In a waterfall or phase-gate hardware product process, validation often only occurs late in the development process. For example, a team may have been working for many months on each component or subsystem and only get aligned as an alpha or beta product is being planned. Only then does the team (and hopefully customers) see the issues of integration and end results. By then it’s often too late to make changes without a complete redesign. As a result, it requires a significant amount of time and resources to implement feedback and launch the final product.

Embracing agile brings together cross-functional teams with a learning and refinement mindset. The goal is to validate design functionality through iterative testing to incorporate changes faster, resulting in better quality products and quick delivery. 

Benefits of Agile for the Manufacturing Industry

Manufacturing companies can expect the following benefits from implementing agile.

  • Agile makes the development process less expensive and time-consuming.
  • It leads to better teamwork and smooth communication with cross-functional teams such as marketing, development, quality assurance, and others, saving time and enhancing efficiency.
  • An agile approach to hardware development enables transparent processes so that everybody stays aligned with the goal.
  • Lesser documentation is required due to effective communication and higher productivity.
  • Testing and feedback speed up product delivery.
  • Much attention is paid to changing customer behavior for improved ROI.
  • It frees senior stakeholders from micromanaging, and they can spend more time strategizing and making key business decisions.
  • Agile offers a competitive advantage as well as better profits.

Not Sure if Agile is Right for You? We Can Help!

At first, implementing agile may look complicated and risky for manufacturing businesses. This radical shift demands change in workplace culture and the mindset of teams, the need for training opportunities, and the transformation of software tools for hardware. However, there is a higher chance that this adoption will have a high payoff. With growing awareness of agile methodologies, businesses across all industries have realized the benefits of agile.

If you believe your business needs such a paradigm shift, our Modified Agile for Hardware Development (MAHD) Framework can help you transform your organization. Contact us today to learn more, or join our MAHD Community to access more resources.

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