April 2, 2021

Why Pilot Runs Are A ‘Must-Do’ When Launching New Products

In This Episode...

Sofeast's CEO Renaud and Adrian from the team explore an important part of the new product launch process: pilot runs.

What is a pilot run, why is it so important when bringing new products to market, and what are the benefits we can expect when performing them before going into full production? These and more questions like this answered in this episode!


Show Notes

00:00 - Introducing the episode

00:51 - Why the pilot run is such an important activity when launching new products

03:11 - Why a pilot run helps you to validate whether the workshop is going to be able to mass-produce the products - initial prototypes made by an engineer on a bench, no matter how good, aren't ready for mass production without a lot of risks. These prototypes aren't made with the same processes as will be used in mass production, so going ahead without the pilot run is skipping a step.

06:25 - When to perform a pilot run, and how many runs to perform before going into production - you may perform more runs until all of the 'bugs' have been ironed out. Renaud also explains how in some industries, such as consumer electronics, they perform specific pilot runs for engineering, design, and production validation (EVT, DVT, and PVT), each focused on testing different elements of product design and production process.
Some comments on keeping suppliers accountable and being able to control costs better thanks to more visibility over what comes off the line with issues at an early stage.

10:32 - What we can learn from pilot runs used in the automotive industry? - if an auto part can't be made at the right speed and quantity it's a big problem, so numerous production trials are used to assure that the process is capable of fulfilling the correct rate. This principle applies to other products, too.

12:12 - Is a pilot run still appropriate when manufacturing smaller quantities? 

13:33 - How about if you are producing an existing product, but with a new manufacturer?

14:22 - Why DON'T Chinese manufacturers like performing pilot runs? - yes, these reasons cause this:

  • They can be overoptimistic and underestimate the pilot run's importance
  • Staff are often paid per piece which doesn't fit well with the stop/start pilot runs

16:11 - The key benefits of performing pilot runs:

  • It forces the manufacturer to plan the process and production linearly and so avoid delays
  • It trains the staff on small quantities at first and drives the supplier to write good work instructions
  • It allows you to see what does and doesn't work and make changes before too much money is at stake
  • Testing areas and equipment readiness can be assessed
  • The run rate can be tested to assure that no bottlenecks are slowing down the process unduly
  • Stress testing forces process and quality engineers to find issues and work on them before mass production

Basically, "learn from the mistakes before they become too costly."

18:32 - Wrapping up


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