Earlier this year, Industry Forum launched a free NPI self-assessment tool to help organisations start their NPI improvement journey. Since its launch, we have received responses from cross-sector manufacturing organisations (i.e. automotive, aerospace and diverse). Respondents to the self-assessment have come from across most functions in organisations, including project management, quality, design engineering, manufacturing engineering, supply chain, senior management and manufacturing. Feedback provided by our experienced team at Industry Forum on each individual NPI self-assessment has been well received and we are confident that this process has been of great value to organisations truly looking to improve their NPI capabilities.

In this article, we will share some of the results across the self-assessments completed and talk about common weak areas identified for improvement. Before we start analysing results, here is your chance to complete the free NPI self-assessment, if you have not already done so.

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Fig. 1: Summary of NPI Self-Assessment Responses

Fig. 2: Industry Forum NPI Model for Launch Excellence

The NPI Process pillar remains, by far, the biggest area of concern highlighted in NPI self-assessment responses completed to date. 63% of responses (see Fig. 1) within this pillar are an area of concern for respondents. It is also one of the key process pillars in the Industry Forum NPI Model for Launch Excellence (see Fig. 2).

A successful NPI process needs to be aligned to business needs and agreed with all stakeholders. Lack of stakeholder commitment is often seen either due to a cumbersome NPI process or one that is not rigorous enough to produce the desired NPI results. This is also an area where best practices start becoming a best fit to organisations. It all comes down to having a right sized NPI process that meets the business needs. So, how do we get to this right sized NPI process?

The right sized NPI process should:

  1. Be adaptable to both simple and complex situations.
  2. Have a clear definition and buy-in from a cross-functional team on expected activities, deliverables and decisions for NPI.
  3. Have buy-in from a cross-functional team on standard work output for each activity within the NPI process.
  4. Have measures for process adherence and NPI outputs agreed and implemented in teams.

Project Management is the next biggest area of concern highlighted in NPI self-assessment responses completed to date. 39% of responses (see Fig. 1) within this pillar are an area of concern for respondents. When we think about some of the reasons for NPI project failures, the usual suspects come to mind:

  • Failure to set and manage expectations:
    • Lack of communication at any level.
    • Inefficient documentation and tracking of progress.
    • Competing priorities.
    • Disregard of project warning signs / risks.
  • Poor planning and/or inadequate structure of process.
  • Poor project leadership or implementation – inadequately trained project managers or project teams.
  • Inaccurate cost estimates.

The good news is that while every project is unique, there are a number of core Project Management principles which underpin success.

What Are the Next Steps?

The big question for many organisations starting on their NPI improvement journey is what they should do first. A good starting point is to do some internal analysis to identify strengths and weaknesses. This approach will not only be more cost effective but will also highlight where to concentrate first level efforts for improvement. To facilitate this internal analysis, a self-assessment tool can provide people the opportunity to take a step back, reflect and make decisions on where improvements are required.  Only after this exercise has been completed can a logical decision be made on next steps to advance the capabilities and close existing gaps.

Below are some simple questions to ask within your teams to define your improvement areas relating to project management:

  1. Do we all have a common understanding and awareness of project management principles?
  2. Do we have a project management approach established with a structured project planning process?
  3. Do we have effective communication in project teams from start to end of projects? Consider planning, assigning, monitoring, controlling and close out of projects.
  4. Do we effectively manage project risk and changes in the team?
  5. Do we continuously improve our project management methodologies with a lessons learned feedback loop?

Industry Forum can help with a 4 day NPI process workshop, as a closed course at your site. This workshop includes reviewing the existing NPI process, defining a suitable future state with cross-functional teams and defining measures for sustained implementation of the new NPI process. We also have a 3 day Project Management Practitioner for Product Launch Excellence course that can be delivered at your site. For more information, visit our website, email us or phone +44 121 717 6600 to talk to our expert practitioners.

A Bit More About Robin
Robin Talwar has over 20 years of international experience within the manufacturing sector, working with leading OEMs and cross-sector tier 1 suppliers. He began his career as a Quality Engineer for Honda Car Manufacturing, developing skills in Problem Solving, Kaizen and Quality Circles. Moving in to the role of Supplier Development Engineer at BMW Germany, Robin was involved in NPI activities and application of Core Tools with suppliers. Joining the Greenfield Project Team with Daimler Trucks, Robin led the Supplier Selection and Development activities to achieve a challenging 85% localisation target. Before joining Industry Forum in May 2015 as Principal Consultant in NPI and Lifecycle Management, Robin was Head of Logistics Operations for a brand new car manufacturing plant of Honda Cars in India, where he successfully developed a Japanese 3PL for inbound logistics and milk run operations.

Click here to contact Robin.