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Eliminate Barriers to Innovation Part III

Meeting Product Requirements and Streamlining Engineering Changes

Throughout this series, we have been exploring how manufacturers can streamline new product development and new product introduction (NPDI) by connecting the entire new product team with a centralized product record for a single source of truth.

During the first installment, we covered the challenges product companies face in delivering a new product to market. And in part two we shared tips on how to address those challenges through a centralized product record and bill of materials (BOM). Now we’re going to talk about how to ensure new products meet their original design requirements while still streamlining changes from engineering.

Prevent design issues that can doom new products

Many product failures over the years were the result of insurmountable or ignored technical and design challenges during the NPD stage. Companies that struggle at this stage often fail to deliver products on time, on budget, and within the design guidelines. For example, the Apple Cube, an ambitious attempt in 1999 to pack a complete PC into a small package, was plagued by design issues that resulted in overheating, poor performance, and a fragile case.

Despite their best intentions, some companies deliver product prototypes with substantial funds invested for detailed design, documentation, prototyping, and testing—only to discover they fail to meet core functionality, performance, or cost objectives.

Meet product requirements with feasibility studies

Many companies are addressing this challenge by performing technical feasibility studies on product capabilities early in the development process. These studies help determine the difference between what we “think” will work and what we “know” will work by evaluating product concepts against product requirements.   

For example, in the electronics industry, the breadboard has been the accepted feasibility method for decades. Intelligent 3D CAD modeling and inexpensive 3D printing have enabled similar options for mechanical engineering, while software teams utilize feasibility reports.

Feasibility studies are an essential part of overall requirements management to cover capabilities such as technical, operational, financial, legal, and security. They help ensure designs meet product requirements and identify suitable materials and production processes.

Most of all, feasibility studies confirm whether or not concept designs can be manufactured and tested to meet the projected volume and cost targets. These studies help overcome production issues while ramping volume to meet customer demand for new product launches.

Streamline engineering change processes

Feasibility testing will often trigger the need for engineering changes during the NPDI process, which is great if those changes can prevent product delays, get a product launch back on track, or eliminate defects that might harm consumers. But how can a global organization with a multi-tiered supply chain ensure those changes are universally adopted and executed?

Organizations that take a manual approach to engineering change request (ECR) and engineering change order (ECO) processes can experience serial delays, difficulty tracking changes, and sometimes confusion about multiple changes that affect the same product assembly. These antiquated processes can’t support parallel team review processes unless all stakeholders meet together face-to-face at the same time. Manual processes hinder product innovation and the ability to bring new products to market.

Automate change approvals

Enabling faster approvals is key to getting products developed on time and under budget.

It is critical to ensure both internal and external supply chain partners can easily and quickly access, review, and approve product design changes.

When you think about change process automation, consider the best way to connect your entire team and supplier network. An electronic review should provide the following to be adopted:

  • Simple access via any web browser
  • Easy-to-understand user interfaces to ensure non-technical partners (e.g., machine shops) can review and approve changes
  • Secure access controls to prevent intellectual property from leaking
  • System links from ECRs or ECOs to all related parts, documents, project details, training records, and associated quality issues

Cloud-based product lifecycle management (PLM) and quality management system (QMS) solutions are designed to help quality and product teams collaborate quickly and effectively. They provide easy access, greater transparency, and enhanced traceability throughout the product lifecycle to ensure successful product launches.

In the next and final part of this series, we will share how to create and manage a proactive project management operation and meet NPDI regulations. For a complete look at these best practices, check out this white paper: Breaking Down the Barriers to Product Innovation.

In the meantime, we’d like to hear how you’re managing product and quality processes.

Are you using manual or multiple systems? What are your biggest barriers to innovation?