The role of a product development engineer is to create new products for a company. In fact, these individuals are often the ones responsible for many of the products seen in retail chains around the world. While the type of industry and company that a product development engineer works for can vary substantially, his job duties are basically the same. Some common ones include researching the wants and needs for a product to fulfill, creating a product prototype, testing the prototype, experimenting with manufacturing possibilities and creating product packaging.
To create a successful product that catches on, it's necessary for a product development engineer to first research customers' wants and needs. For example, if he is working for a toy manufacturer, he may perform research to determine what products are selling well and what the projected forecast is. If flying discs are popular, he may decide to create a new product that lights up when thrown. Understanding the market and the target audience's wants and needs is essential for developing a product that sells.
Creating a product prototype is typically the next step of the process. At this stage, a product development engineer will create a working model of the product that he intends on creating. In the case of a light up flying disc, he might experiment with different designs and lighting techniques until he comes up with a suitable prototype.
Once he has created an initial prototype, he will usually begin to test it. Since this product example is geared toward a younger audience, he might have several children play with the flying disc during testing. Afterward, he will ask for feedback from each tester to get an idea about the product's strengths and weaknesses. If feedback is positive, the product development engineer will usually move on to the next stage. If feedback is negative, he will most likely tweak it until it receives tester approval.
Upon the development of a successful prototype, a product development engineer will experiment with different manufacturing possibilities. This primarily involves deciding on which materials and manufacturing techniques to use. In most cases, this is determined by meeting with other experts and company executives. Once everyone has reached an agreement, the actual manufacturing process can begin.
In addition, a product development engineer often creates a product's packaging as well. For example, he may design the colors and images on the packaging. This practice is also known as branding and helps to distinguish a product from the competition.