Time to Market: 8 Ways to Know Your Customer Better

With today’s challenges to business resulting from the pandemic, it is more important than ever to work closely with customers. One of the silver linings of the pandemic is that new products are being developed on a daily basis—some of which are life-saving, like new ventilators and purification cleansing machines.

Those of us in the new product development end of the business are especially sensitive to the time-to-market needs of our customers—even to the point where we should always be prepared to provide them with not only new product introduction services but engineering and design support as well. This means that we need to have a complete understanding of our customers’ needs and operations.

We also need to establish a very strong bond with everyone involved in the project. When you consider the U.S. space program, for example, you realize that it was a cooperative effort by hundreds if not thousands of suppliers working toward that one goal of putting an American on the moon. In some ways, the journey was as important as the successful fulfillment of the goal. On a smaller scale, this is the kind of relationship you want to have with your customers—especially when you are developing new products in a time-sensitive atmosphere.

With that in mind, here eight things you need to be intimately aware of about your customers:

  1. Understand the business they are in. What is their market like? Who are their competitors, and how do they do what they do? What is the normal operating procedure for companies that do the same that your own customer is doing?
  2. How does your customer operate? What is their process from new product development? What steps does the product take from the original concept to design to when it comes to you? How long does each step take, and when in the process cycle do you come it?
  3. What are their design parameters, both general and specific? What checkpoints does the design face before it is delivered to you?
  4. What little nuances and idiosyncrasies does your customer have? This is vitally important. The more you know about how your product is used in their end-products, the better a supplier you will be.
  5. Don’t just learn their schedule for a particular product; make yourself a part of it. Ask them what comes before and after your role in that schedule and plan around that. You do not want to be the problem, holding up the new product introduction.
  6. Establish close professional relationships with your customer’s key people. Get to know them personally. How do they operate? What is their work like? What are their needs? Then, conform your products, processes, and schedule to meet those needs. This is one of the most important aspects of a supplier-customer relationship, and one that is often overlooked. Think about the adage, “Walk a mile in their shoes,” and you will become their favorite supplier.
  7. Share their problems. You want to be so close to your customers that you not only understand their problems but share them as well. Make their problems your problems, and help them look for the right solutions. Think of how valuable you become as a supplier if you are considered a problem solver. Talk about a customer for life.
  8. Keep a record of each project. Most companies do this already with their ISO 9100 and AS9001 recordkeeping but do more than this. Keep notes on every project you work on, thus creating a history of what worked and what did not, how you met and solved problems, and when challenges occurred. This is a scientific way to learn as you go, creating your own kind of homegrown AI that you can refer to in the future.

These are all ways to get to know everything about your customers and wonderful ways to become their most trusted and valued supplier—your customers’ preferred supplier.

And in the spirit of becoming your customers’ preferred supplier, there is one more thing you can do—be fearless. You should have the courage to take on projects that no one has built before. After all, when in the time-to-market NPI business, you often work on R&D projects. The keyword is “development.” The products you build will often be in the development stage, and you want to make sure that, no matter how scary, you are willing to take them on. Not only that, but sometimes those challenges could come with setbacks, so you have to be ready to absorb those setbacks and continue looking for the right solution.

With this “failure is not an option” attitude, you will definitely become the most trusted and valued time-to-market complete solutions provider in your market today.

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

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2020

Time to Market: 8 Ways to Know Your Customer Better

08-20-2020

Now is the time to go the extra mile in getting to know your customers, what they need, and how to help them solve their problems and challenges. Imran Valiani shares eight ways to know your customer better.

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Time to Market: It’s Not All About Money

07-30-2020

When you consider the true value of getting your product built swiftly enough to make your required date, you come to realize that it’s not all about the money. After all of the planning, scheduling, and marketing you’ve done, Imran Valiani explains what could happen if you don’t get your product on time.

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Time to Market: It’s Crunch Time!

06-25-2020

After sharing a crunch-time scenario, Imran Valiani emphasizes the importance of solid communication on getting to market on time—especially if you're not using a one-stop-shop for design, fabrication, and assembly.

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Time to Market: 10 Guidelines for NPI Projects

05-21-2020

With everything going on right now, people are looking for solutions—especially fast solutions. Imran Valiani shares 10 guidelines for working with your NPI supplier to make sure that you get your new, innovative, and in some cases, life-saving products to market quickly and efficiently.

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Time to Market: Time to Market Now More Critical Than Ever

04-23-2020

As inventors come up with new devices and equipment that can directly save lives when they are placed in the hands of the medical professionals who are treating COVID-19 patients, it is up to the PCB and PCBA industry to support those companies. Imran Valiani provides five actions to help customers get to market with their new products as rapidly as possible.

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Time to Market: Handling the Precarious Global Supply Web

03-26-2020

The rush is on. As the world changes moment by moment, more and more companies are going to need to have their new product lines developed faster than ever. As the global supply web shuts down—or at least gets closed off in some areas of the world—companies, especially OEMs, are having to scramble to find alternate solutions for building their products. However, Imran Valiani explains how there is a way to countermand these challenges: using trusted sources.

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Time to Market: Total Concept—A New Kind of Business Whose Time Has Come

02-27-2020

Customers used to have enough time to go just about anywhere to get their concept to reality projects completed. They could go to the East Coast for design, the Midwest to get their boards fabricated, and the West Coast for assembly. Nowadays, companies want to have a supplier that controls it all and is nearby so that they can meet with their vendors daily or more frequently to ensure that everything is going according to plan. This is especially critical when it comes to projects that are truly in development and will need a number of revisions.

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Time to Market: Concept to Reality in Five Days—Can You Believe It?

01-23-2020

Time to market has never been more important than it is today. Some companies today can go from schematic to an assembled board in five working days or less, and sometimes in just hours. Imran Valiani lists five things that super-fast companies must have to “cut the fat” from their cycle times.

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2019

Time to Market: The Complete Solution—Fabrication and Assembly in Five Days

12-05-2019

The future is here. More and more companies are turning to the complete synergistic solution, seeking companies who can provide PCB fabrication and assembly in just a few days, some in as little as five days. Imran Valiani shares five items to consider when choosing a total concept supplier.

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Time to Market: Partnership Is a Two-way Street

11-21-2019

The best way—and really the only way—to get the most from both your PCB vendors and others is to treat them as an extended part of your company. Bring them into the family, so to speak. And the better you treat your vendors, the better they will perform. I know that’s not the most complicated thing to say, but it is often not an easy thing to do. You have to intentionally choose companies to partner with as vendors, and then intentionally work to create a bond of trust with them consistently throughout the relationship.

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Time to Market: The Importance of Timely NPI

10-09-2019

In this new column from Imran Valiani plans to address ways to get products to market as quickly as possible.

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