This section seeks to identify how your business can develop an enviable reputation for introducing new products and services by sustaining a portfolio of desirable items.
Companies are totally dependent upon the goods they sell for the cash that flows through their supply chains. Consequently, companies have to find ways of developing attractive products, incorporating appropriate technologies, at prices customers are willing to pay. This must be achieved in short lead-times and at the product volumes necessary to satisfy demand.
New Product Introduction Processes
If this is to be consistently achieved, your business will need to clearly define and document the processes needed to develop new products, making any appropriate improvements each time the processes are used. This will be helpful, since each new product introduction cycle in your business will have slightly different characteristics and, hence, brings its own lessons. For instance, a project to launch a new product in a new market involves considerably more expenditure and risk than one aimed at introducing an existing design for a new application. For this reason different work packages to complete various stages in the process are needed depending upon the type of development programme, risk and cost to the business.
Preparing your company for a new product introduction process
When introducing new products the following essential questions should be considered:
· How should the level of expenditure you will direct to new products and developing new markets be decided in your business?
· Having taken into account the level of expenditure and potential risk to the business of a new product introduction project, how will you manage the project?
· What kinds of organisational relationships will be needed between the project manager, the design team, manufacturing, suppliers and other essential resources?
· Who should own the budget for product development projects?
· Who will take responsibility for delivering projects to time, within agreed development budgets; ensuring estimated manufacturing costs are achieved?
· How should/will your company develop generic technologies for future generations of products?
· How should/will your business foster innovation and incorporate this into all aspects of the product introduction process?
· How will you integrate the design of your new product with your make versus buy decisions and with the design of the manufacturing processes which will be required to produce it?
· What impact will your new (and current) products and manufacturing processes have upon the environment and how can they be made more sustainable?
· How can the intellectual property embedded within your new (and current) products be patented and/or protected from current and potential competitors?
Designing the process to suit your company and project
Having decided on the responses to these questions your company will be in a position to consider your new product introduction process in detail. It has been shown that best practice in new product introduction, involves working to established processes that everyone in the organisation fully understands. The definition of these processes will vary depending on the complexity of particular projects, but they are usually based upon a number of stages, each with a defined end point called a stage gate (or key milestone).
Processes are important, but must serve the aims of the business. It is possible to obtain pre-defined processes for new product introduction from consultants (at, usually, some cost) or academic works (at the cost of the book or journal). Adopting these pre-defined processes can save you some time, but it is not advisable to simply adopt them without understanding the implications. Companies which have experienced real success in this area have tended to consider the standard offerings and then adapt them to the:
· Particular way their company works
· The range of product complexity and
· Lead time for introducing new products
· Technical and commercial risks involved
· Importance of specific customer to the company and how to meet their needs
High risk projects
For significant new products with a degree of technical and commercial risk, an initial Product Definition stage should be included as part of the business development activity. This will involve outlining the product attributes, markets, territories, prices and volumes, presenting them as a business product development plan to be approved by senior management. In this way the necessary funding can be assessed and allocated prior to making any significant investment in the design phase.
Designing the manufacturing system
Another key area of best practice involves the design of the product and its related manufacturing processes being undertaken concurrently by people working for the same team leader. This link ensures that the complexity and cost of manufacturing the new product is fully evaluated at a stage when these issues can be effectively influenced. Also the design can possibly be modified to take advantage of appropriate cost effective manufacturing methods. The name of this technique is Concurrent Engineering
Incorporating new technologies
If your new product involves any new technologies, or even established technologies which are new to you, then manufacturing process needed to for production must be taken into consideration. Both the product and manufacturing technologies will need to be carefully tested and verified to ensure they are robust and commercially viable. The people who will use them will also need to be properly trained and supported until they are familiar with what they have to do. If new manufacturing facilities have to be installed in the factory and the supply chains must be technically supported and subjected to a phased ramp up until they can consistently achieve the projected sales volumes.
Managing people resources
The people resources available for developing and introducing new products within any company are usually finite and relatively expensive. Overloading these resources usually results in all of the projects being starved of resources and none of them being delivered on time. Good new product introduction project managers develop robust resource planning systems and ensure that their management colleagues take the necessary difficult decisions on which projects to prioritise.
The international community has, in recent years, begun to take much more of an interest in the adverse impact products and their associated manufacturing process may have on the environment. Your company should be thinking carefully about your own products and processes in relation to the environmental interests of governments of countries in which you trade and of your customers.
Society will no longer accept environmental damage to our planet without questioning the reasons and examining opportunities for potentially cleaner alternatives. The results of global warming will affect everyone’s way of life, so no matter how difficult the problem, we must develop and implement viable policies and solutions. These will inevitably lead to the recycling of products at the end of their useful life, making the ability to disassemble and reclaim materials as important to the new product introduction process as the initial manufacture of the product.
The global economy, international competition, low cost labour countries and such are making the introduction of new products to the marketplace more complex every year. Products are, however, the engine of the world’s economy. Nations grow wealthy by adding value to raw materials, transforming them into the products people are willing to pay for. The ability to conceive and create these products that people need and want to buy is the key to our future personal and national prosperity.