It seems counterintuitive, but putting more review cycles in the development process can actually help get products to market faster. A large consumer products manufacturer shows why this can work.
Like many manufacturers trying to get more efficient in product development, the company had invested in multiple design centers around the world along with a large network of suppliers to support a central manufacturing facility.
The problem, however, was effective collaboration, especially in the areas of supplier management and quality control. Product teams were dealing with too many of the wrong parts coming from suppliers, and discovering the errors too late in the development process. Expected savings in costs and time were lost along the way.
To address the problems, the company focused on weaknesses in their review cycles. In particular, they added three new review processes, as follows:
- A formal design review early in the development process to verify design intent across the design teams and with relevant suppliers
- Another formal design review with suppliers before building any prototypes
- A third new design review after the prototype phase to ensure greater accuracy in ordering parts and manufacturing tools
To support the new processes, the company also strengthened its product data management (PDM) system to enable remote design reviews with digital mockups, annotations, and workflow review.
As a result of the new processes and improved PDM support, the company has been able to reduce the number of mistakes, catch errors earlier, and ultimately accelerate the entire product development process, even with the additional review cycles.
The push for global product development, including dispersed design teams and increased reliance on outside suppliers, can create a host of new challenges in effective and efficient collaboration. Remote collaboration is often more difficult than meeting in person; language and cultural issues can be hard to overcome, and it can be challenging to discuss physical product models without everyone sitting together in a room.
As the consumer products firm demonstrates, however, adding formal review cycles, especially with the right PDM tools in place to support those cycles, can actually result in speeding the process along. Sometimes you really do need to slow down in order to speed up.