87: A First-Generation Product Master Class with Milo Werner

Working on first-generation products and new product development is no walk in the park. But, Milo Werner, General Partner at The Engine, joined the “Build Better 2022” virtual conference, hosted by Instrumental, to share her wealth of experience.

Milo joined Tesla in 2007 at a critical stage in the company’s trajectory, where she led new product introduction launching the Model S and Model X powertrains. In addition to Tesla, Milo ran new product introduction at Fitbit, launching four factories in China and transitioning the company to fully automated production. Now she’s a general partner at The Engine, where her dedication to solving some of the world’s biggest problems, from climate to health to computing and beyond, continues.

In this extract from the “Build Better 2022” virtual conference, Milo gives us the low down on how she got her start in both Tesla and Fitbit. We hear about her triumphs and the challenges she faced developing first-generation and new product development. She also answers a series of questions from the manufacturing leaders in the audience.


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3 Quick Things from this Episode

  1. The general expectation is that first-generation products take longer to get to market.
  2. The incentives aren’t typically aligned between contract manufacturers and companies.
  3. When it comes to automotive and consumer electronic brands, the field reliability expectations are dramatically different.

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Tweetable Quotes

  • “New product introduction is a wonderful way to meet people and to be that glue that removes silos and brings people together as a cross-functional team.”
  • “The CM industry is run on razor-thin margins, and they’ve been put in that corner by one customer after another.”
  • “I want to solve problems in our community and society, and Tesla and Fitbit really spoke to me in that regard.”

Please Scroll Down for Recommended Resources from this Episode

Do you want to connect with other leaders that are moving the needle in manufacturing everyday? Then make sure to join us in the Manufacturing Happy Hour Industry Community on LinkedIn.

A3 is the leading global automation trade association of the robotics, machine vision, motion control, and AI industries. Their events are some of the best places to get connected in the industry. Make sure to check out their marquee event Automate taking place in Detroit, MI June 6-9, 2022. Head to AutomateShow.com to register for free today.

Interested in generating leads through videos, podcasts, or other digital content? Then make sure to check out our 6 Strategies for Growing Your Manufacturing Business Using Social Media.

What We Discuss with Milo

  • How Milo got into Tesla and new product development
  • Challenges she experienced while working on the Model-S powertrain
  • Lessons learned from building a first-generation product
  • Challenges when developing new products
  • Milo’s transition from Tesla to Fitbit
  • What characteristics need to align when evaluating a contract manufacturer
  • Lessons learned from smaller companies making first-generation products
  • Why it’s vital to be open to recommendations from contract manufacturers
  • How to determine the specifications for how good a product feature should be
  • How to manage people on long projects
  • Determining if you’re a fit for new product development
  • The future of cars as a service

Recommended Resources

  • Instrumental, a manufacturing optimization platform that uses AI-powered proactive defect discovery to help companies improve their product lines
  • Tesla, an American electric vehicle and clean energy company that manufactures electric cars, battery energy storage, and other related products
  • Fitbit, an American consumer electronics and fitness company
  • Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… and Others Don’t, a management book that describes how companies go from being good to great
  • The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, a business book that describes the many pitfalls teams face as they seek to “grow together”

Connect with Milo

LinkedIn | Twitter