Can HP’s Product Managers Use 3-D Printers To Save The Company?

Can 3-D printers save HP?
Can 3-D printers save HP?
Image Credit: MKzero

Once upon a time, being a product manager at HP was a great job to have. The company prided itself on its innovations and it was always trying to bring new products to market. However, time has passed and HP fell on hard times. Eventually the leadership at HP decided that they were trying to address too many different markets to be just one company. They decided to split the company up into two separate companies. One will tackle the rapidly changing technology business and the other will sell personal computers and printers. What will the product managers at the printer part of HP do to keep their company afloat?

The World Of 3D Printers

The printer side of HP is facing some significant challenges. The first, of course, is that everyone who needs a computer printer pretty much already has one. The global sales of new PCs is starting to slow and so this means that the market for selling new printers as a part of a new computer sale is also shrinking. Once someone has purchased a printer, it can be very difficult to get them motivated to buy a new printer unless it has some fantastic new feature (holographic printing?) or somehow dramatically reduces the costs associated with printing.

Clearly the HP product managers are going to have to come up with a new product development definition,

The product managers at HP’s new printing company realize that they are fighting an uphill battle. They are now working for the unglamorous part of the company. In order to generate some interest in what they are doing, they have decided that if they enter into the 3-D printing market then they can once again start to build on HP’s reputation for innovation. Their goal is to have the company spend the next five years developing conventional printer technology for devices that can fabricate actual physical objects.

The HP product managers have decided that the company needs to enter this market by introducing two new 3-D printers. These printers will be targeted towards customers who are running high volume production operations. The reason that the HP product managers think that customers will be interested in their new 3-D printers will be because they are able to print objects at up to 10 times faster than competing 3-D printers.

If they can be successful, then they will have something new to add to their product manager resume.

Industrial 3D Printers

The HP product managers have already started taking orders for their new 3-D printers. The price for one of these printers has been set at US$130,000. HP’s hope is that by bringing their printers to the market, they can transform 3-D printing from what it is now, low-volume printing of custom tailored parts, to a more high-volume manufacturing method with the ability to turn out thousands of 3-D parts per day.

In the 3-D printer market today, the printers that have been designed to be used by people at home have not really caught on yet. However, in the industrial space companies have been using 3-D printers to make both prototypes and finished goods. However, they have only been able to create them in small quantities. This has worked out well for products that have to be customized. Products that fit this need include heart valves, prosthetic limbs, airplane parts, and dental products.

What the HP product managers believe is that the speed of their printers is what will set them apart in the market. The HP printers are able to create 12,600 copies of a simple plastic gear in the same amount of time that it would take other 3-D printers to create 1,000 copies of the gear. The thinking is that the HP printers will be able to compete a production job in between 12-15 hours. Previously, this type of job would have taken other tools several days to complete.

What All Of This Means For You

The HP printing company product managers have a tough task on their hands. They are part of the “boring” part of HP that has been spun off into its own company. In order to attempt to capture customer’s attention, they are going to use their product manager job description to find a way to recapture the innovation that HP used to be known for. Their plan is to attempt to enter the emerging 3-D printer space.

The HP product managers are facing a challenge because everyone already has a printer and global sales of new computers that need new printers is starting to slow. In order to capture customer interest, they have decided to use their knowledge of how to create printers and create new 3-D printers. Their printers will be industrial printers that are targeted towards customers who are running high volume production operations. Home based 3-D printers have not really taken off yet. HP hopes to distinguish their 3-D printers by how fast they are able to create objects.

If the HP product managers had just stuck to offering what they know best, computer printers, they would have found themselves locked in a price sensitive market with no way out. Instead, they have shown some real innovation and are going after a new market. Since they’ll be using their existing printer knowledge to create the new 3-D printers, I think that they just might have a real shot at becoming a significant force in this new marketplace.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Product Management Skills™

Question For You: Do you think that the HP product managers will have to expand their product line from just two models?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

If you have a talk with a product manager and you ask them what the most challenging part of their job’s product development definition is, more often than not you’ll get the answer “pricing”. As product managers we’d like to maximize the amount of money that the company gets each time it sells our product. However, we know that if we price it too high, nobody is going to be buying it. Just exactly how are we going to go about determining what the correct price for our product is?