When it comes to launching a new product, it makes sense to ‘test’ everything first, including how the product is put together on the production line. This test run is referred to as a pilot run.

When to perform a pilot run

This test production run is implemented at the start of a new production with the objective of identifying issues with not only how the product is assembled and tested but also the layout of the production line. You may find that some of the workstations need to be switched around as the assembly sequence is better or that the test stations need to be repositioned in order to optimize the throughput time (takt time) of the product.

Best practices

One important aspect of the test run is making sure that the conditions are identical to those used in mass production. This includes using the same dedicated staff, test equipment, and work instructions.
In this way, issues can be flushed out as if the product were being produced in mass production. You will find out in advance if additional training is required for certain staff, or if work instructions need updating.

It is also a good idea to push the throughput limits during a pilot run so the system is put under pressure. This will identify additional problems that may not be identified at normal takt time.

Once the run is completed it is important to compile a failure mode list and create a corrective action plan for implementation before mass production starts. This will be the best time to make changes, improve the layout, and provide additional training because once mass productions start, any issues left unresolved will be included in the production. This could result in additional product cost, increased rejection rates, longer lead-times and delays.

This is why a pilot run is so important when launching a new product.


We discuss the importance of pilot runs in this episode of our podcast: Why Pilot Runs Are A ‘Must-Do’ When Launching New Products

You can also read: Don’t Skip the Pilot Run for Your New Product Made in China!

Read more about how a pilot production run like this fits into NPI in The New Product Introduction Process Guide for Hardware Startups.

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