Companies that develop product on a continual basis are well served by doing a regular review of their product development process. Try to identify areas where there is a gap between where you are now and where you would like to be. Each companies process is different but some of the general segments to evaluate are:
- Concept Development
- Mechanical problems
- Production Costs
- Speed of Development
- General Innovation
- Design for Manufacturability
- Collaboration and Communication
What segments of the process have the largest gap? Which segment are the easiest to work on first? Typically, you want to see improvements in the quality of the output, the speed in which that quality work happens and the efficiency of that segment.
Looking at Concept Development for example you will want to see a greater variety of innovative concepts produced in a shorter time. With Mechanical development you will want to quickly develop mechanisms that are reliable, use the fewest parts and deliver the desired result efficiently.
Improvements in the process will come from identifying the area’s most in need. Evaluating each step of the current process and being open to doing things differently is the required mindset for improvement. The worse thing someone can say during this examination is “that’s the way we have always done it.” There is always room for improvement. There is also always a cost for those improvements, usually in time, money and human resources. The trick is to work on the areas where you’re going to get the biggest return on your investment.
Evaluating each step and identifying ways to consolidate them while increasing the quality of the output is not easy. Some of the ways to accomplish this are eliminating nonproductive steps, upgrading the tools used, and of course bringing more collaboration and teamwork to solve problems. The process of self-evaluation is certainly challenging but when you are talking about a long product development cycle small increases in efficiency can reap large rewards.
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