Check if your New Product Introduction process features these 6 basic success factors.

Before you start buying expensive design software or other automated tools to speed up your NPI process, have you examined your process procedures?

Having studied and helped a variety of manufacturers, from build to print suppliers to innovators who launch to market, I have found that these 6 factors are an essential base for any robust NPI process and will result in reduced lead times and spend.

1. Use a gated process

A gated process consists of sets of tasks, called stages, and review gates. See the Guide to NPI Terminology.

At the end of each stage the project review board MUST formally review progress and decide if the project is still worth investing in.

They need to establish:

  • Will the customer be satisfied?
  • Will it make us money?

I’ve found that companies who don’t have a clear gated process are more likely to deliver late, allow costs to spiral and develop a firefighting regime.

2.Ensure the gates have “teeth”

This is a great phrase that has been borrowed from the work done by Robert G Cooper. If the answers are NO to the questions above then be brave and either terminate or redefine the project and concentrate your precious resources on more promising ones.

3. Use cross-functional teams

It’s worrying how many times I find that people and functions involved in a project have limited contact with other project members. Even though each individual believes they are working hard for a successful outcome, in reality they could bring in a better product, quicker and cheaper by working in cross-functional teams.

4. Appoint a project manager

Having 1 person in charge of the day to day running of the project is more likely to result in project success (on time and in budget), but additional benefits are gained if the project manager also has strong team leadership skills. This is something I have found in organisations making improvements to established NPI processes. They improve the communication flows and engage and motivate individuals, which contribute to a better new product and improved project results.

Although smaller companies may find it difficult to appoint a full time project manager, there are other options. Whichever option you choose, ensure that their role and responsibilities are well defined.

5. Have a clear set of rules for running your NPI process

At the beginning these are the key elements you need to be clear on.

  • How you will identify, assess and control risk to the project.
  • A system for delegating authority to the different project team members.
  • A system to escalate issues outside the levels of authority they have.
  • A system to formally manage changes to the project.

The more developed your NPI process becomes the more detailed these rules will become.

6. Set up a system to improve your process

Formally manage the capture of solutions to issues that occur during each run of the process as well as team observations for improvements. Ensure these points are turned into actions for the next project to create a true Lessons Learned system.

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