Industry Forum

Check if your New Product Introduction process features these 6 basic success factors.

Before you start buying expensive design software or other automated tools to speed up your NPI process, have you examined your process procedures?

Having studied and helped a variety of manufacturers, from build to print suppliers to innovators who launch to market, I have found that these 6 factors are an essential base for any robust NPI process and will result in reduced lead times and spend.

1. Use a gated process

A gated process consists of sets of tasks, called stages, and review gates. See the Guide to NPI Terminology.

At the end of each stage the project review board MUST formally review progress and decide if the project is still worth investing in.

They need to establish:

  • Will the customer be satisfied?
  • Will it make us money?

I’ve found that companies who don’t have a clear gated process are more likely to deliver late, allow costs to spiral and develop a firefighting regime.

2.Ensure the gates have “teeth”

This is a great phrase that has been borrowed from the work done by Robert G Cooper. If the answers are NO to the questions above then be brave and either terminate or redefine the project and concentrate your precious resources on more promising ones.

3. Use cross-functional teams

It’s worrying how many times I find that people and functions involved in a project have limited contact with other project members. Even though each individual believes they are working hard for a successful outcome, in reality they could bring in a better product, quicker and cheaper by working in cross-functional teams.

4. Appoint a project manager

Having 1 person in charge of the day to day running of the project is more likely to result in project success (on time and in budget), but additional benefits are gained if the project manager also has strong team leadership skills. This is something I have found in organisations making improvements to established NPI processes. They improve the communication flows and engage and motivate individuals, which contribute to a better new product and improved project results.

Although smaller companies may find it difficult to appoint a full time project manager, there are other options. Whichever option you choose, ensure that their role and responsibilities are well defined.

5. Have a clear set of rules for running your NPI process

At the beginning these are the key elements you need to be clear on.

  • How you will identify, assess and control risk to the project.
  • A system for delegating authority to the different project team members.
  • A system to escalate issues outside the levels of authority they have.
  • A system to formally manage changes to the project.

The more developed your NPI process becomes the more detailed these rules will become.

6. Set up a system to improve your process

Formally manage the capture of solutions to issues that occur during each run of the process as well as team observations for improvements. Ensure these points are turned into actions for the next project to create a true Lessons Learned system.

Automotive-Industrial-PartnershipGovernment is joining forces with leading UK automotive manufacturers to boost skills across the sector, inspire the next generation of vehicle makers and create new routes into automotive careers.

Business Secretary Vince Cable announced £11.3 million of government funding alongside £2.8 million cash investment and £16.4 million in-kind contributions from industry.

The project, developed through the Automotive Council’s Business Environment and Skills Group, brings together major automotive businesses to ensure future skills needs are met for UK vehicle manufacturers and supply chain companies. It follows a successful bid from the group for funding through government’s Employer Ownership Pilot.

Business Secretary Vince Cable said, “This investment puts our automotive sector in the driving seat to design the skills our manufacturing companies need. There is a risk that without adequate investment in skills, the industry will run into serious skills bottlenecks.

“Through our industrial strategy we are working in partnership with the automotive sector as it goes from strength to strength. We are providing businesses with the confidence to invest, and to create high skilled jobs.”

Employment in the automotive industry is set to grow in the coming years, with multi-billion pound investments taking hold and production volumes on course for record levels. With developments such as connectivity and advanced manufacturing taking the sector into exciting new territory, recruitment is a major challenge facing the industry.

Manufacturers will work together to identify and meet the skills needs for their current and future workforces, ensuring the UK automotive industry is in pole position. Young people will also gain first-hand experience of the industry in action, inspiring future generations of engineers and technicians.

Jo Lopes, Chair of the Automotive Industrial Partnership and head of Technical Excellence, Jaguar Land Rover, said, “The Automotive Industrial Partnership brings together industry’s employers on an unprecedented scale. By working collaboratively and taking an innovative and sector-wide approach, we are ensuring that the UK’s automotive sector can grow and retain the skills talent that is so vital for the industry’s continued success.”

Aston Martin, Bentley, BMW, Ford, General Motors, GKN, Honda, Jaguar Land Rover, Nissan and Toyota represent some of the UK’s biggest automotive employers, and will work together with government, SEMTA and SMMT through the Automotive Council to boost workforce skills, now and for the long term. This includes creating an industry standard “jobs framework” and identifying job “hot spots”, to encourage more young people into automotive manufacturing careers and to deliver clear development pathways to help them to progress. Initiatives include:

  • Giving 4,500 nine year olds an experience of working in the industry through a one day production simulation.
  • Taking on 960 11-16 year old Industrial Cadets, to develop vital industry skills in team working, communications and problem solving over a six day programme.
  • Providing a route to work for 225 19+ year olds, with a 15 day programme offering vocational training and simulated work activities designed by their potential future employers. Assessing functional and employability skills will lead to further work experience at a host company, helping young people with little or no workplace experience and vocational skills on a route to possible future apprenticeships.

Existing employees at all levels will also benefit from industry collaboration to strengthen their technical, management and leadership skills. Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) will be supported in gaining access to industry standard skills development. Meanwhile talented, qualified engineers from other professions, such as the Armed Forces, will be able to train to apply their knowledge and skills in the automotive industry.

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