Time to Market: Security is Key

New product introduction (NPI) is on the rise. With crisis comes innovation and the COVID-19 pandemic is no different, as hundreds of new and innovative products are being developed and rushed to the marketplace.

There are all kinds of new and improved medical devices such as respirators, ventilators, and vaccine storage; expedited shipping on temperature monitors, sanitizers, and purifiers; and quick and accurate test and numerous other medical devices. There are also other new products being rushed to the market, everything from automatic door openers to office occupancy monitoring, and much more.

This tsunami of new products coming to market also includes innovations and inventions in the automotive marketplace, from electric and autonomous vehicles to battery chargers that are easier to use and longer lasting than anything currently on the market.

Adding to this is the fact that people have been locked down for well over a year, giving them creative time like they have never had in their lives. Artists are finding new ways to create art; singers are putting out new albums, and inventors are inventing like crazy.

Of course, they all want to get their creations and inventions to the marketplace as rapidly and as easily as possible.

There has never been a higher demand for faster time to market than right now. Those of us working in this space must get ready for a perfect storm of highly competitive companies wanting to get their products to market first.

If you’re in this end of the marketplace, you had better be ready for it. If you’re not, sharpen your pencils because every company in electronics is going to be looking for you to take their products to market—quickly, efficiently, and productively.

But one aspect of NPI QTA that we probably don’t talk enough about is confidentiality. In the past, we have been judged by three “legs” of NPI QTA: delivery, quality and price. Now, I propose we add confidentiality as the fourth leg, and also the one growing in importance.

With so much innovation, many ideas and concepts are likely to get stolen, or I should say “seemingly stolen.” By this, I mean that when a lot of companies are working on the same kinds of products at the same time there is bound to be some cross-pollination of ideas that could lead to lawsuits or at least severe misunderstandings. And of course, much of the time we are all working on products with either no patents yet, or best-case, patent pending.

This means that our customers are very sensitive about who is actually building their products and whether they are truly trustworthy.

For these reasons, we must develop privacy and security systems in our processes that will alleviate our customers’ fears of patent infringement of stealing of their new product ideas. We are all going to have to tighten our security systems to make sure that no product information in any way leaves our companies.

It is a known fact that often we will simultaneously be building two or sometimes three competing companies’ products, and we must make sure that these products lines never cross in any way. We also must make darn sure that we don’t inadvertently expose one company’s product or product secrets to one of their competitors.

So far, this has never posed that great a problem, but I see that it may change. We are seeing a drastic rise in customer concern for having their new products stolen by a competitor. I believe this concern will continue to rise in the next two years, at least.

Adding to this concern is the rise of the “anybody but China” (ABC) thinking when it comes to American OEMs losing their faith and trust in Chinese companies. There is currently a move to find suppliers with non-Chinese companies in Southeast Asia; it is something we need to address immediately.

While for years it was perfectly acceptable for Americans to buy components and other products directly from China, the trust in China (for whatever reason) is waning to the point where OEMs no longer want to deal with China. This is creating havoc with the supply chain as we’ve known it for the past 20 years.

Part of this concern is, of course, to produce the intellectual property (IP) that is being develop here by American OEMs. Once again, it is a matter of product security and patent infringement.

We now must demonstrate our trustworthiness when it comes to security and the protection from IP theft to our customers. We are going to have to make them very comfortable that they can trust us with their products of the future.

Imran Valiani is an account manager at Rush PCB. He can be reached at imran@rushpcb.com. 



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