Product development is similar to an expedition through an uncharted wilderness. An expedition requires a well explained description of the destination, a clearly articulated plan for how to get there and an understanding of the roles and responsibilities of each team member. Once an expedition is underway, there must be a leadership system that allows the various team experts to work together to evaluate risks and make decisions about the best course of action, possibly modifying the original plan based upon new information. Although Lewis and Clark may have eventually reached the Pacific if they had simply grabbed their guns and took off running in a westerly direction, their odds of success were greatly improved by approaching their challenge in a calculated, methodical manner. Similarly, the chances of successfully developing a new product or technology that meets the needs and desires of the marketplace are greatly improved if a methodical plan is followed.
Sometimes a company needs to augment its internal product development team with someone from outside of the organization. The initial thought may be to hire a contract engineer or contract designer through a contract employment agency. However, there is a better alternative: utilize the services of a dedicated mechanical engineering firm. Following are a few important factors to consider before making this important decision.