Developing new products and services rapidly and effectively is a very important skill in many businesses and the ‘decision to design’ can commit the business to hundreds of thousands of pounds and many months of work, as well as significant risk. The focus needs to be on minimising cost whilst reducing the time taken to develop the product or service and reducing the business’s risk exposure.
The problems with traditional design processes are that they occur sequentially and often involve ‘over the wall engineering’ in that one department ‘throws’ the design to the next department who then have to unpick the problems that have been designed in, often at great cost. In manufacturing companies, often the design engineers will not understand the production process and will design a product which cannot easily be made, or is too expensive, and in service companies often the marketing team will not understand in detail the operations function and will promote a product which is difficult to manage effectively – both examples of dysfunctional and sequential design.
During WWII, the need for rapid product development was recognised and the concept of Concurrent Design (CD) was born. The backbone of CD is the formation of a multi-function team consisting of designers, production, quality and test engineering personnel and key suppliers to develop a new product. This changes the cash flow profile (ie more money is spent earlier on), but can easily reduce the ‘time to market’ and post-design changes by 75% as well as reducing the actual development spend by up to 40%.
CD is a concept which is viable for both manufacturers or service sector businesses, but for manufacturers is complemented by Rapid Prototyping tools and techniques which have evolved to a new level of sophistication over the last 20 years, again reducing the time taken to receive solid models from weeks to hours and contributing to shorter development times.
Reducing time to market for new products and service can be shown to have many benefits including increased market share, longer product lifecycles and higher margins, but requires collaboration between departments and companies and the adoption of new practices and processes in the design value stream.
Mark Eaton holds the Viscount Nuffield Medal for his contribution to UK Industry and has held numerous senior positions within industry, as well as holding the post as Director of a number of major public sector programmes. Mark is Chair of the IET's Manufacturing Network and the IOM's Operations Development Panel which aims to promote best practice in Operations Thinking in Manufacturing & Healthcare.
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