In the current product development environment, the products as well as the technology they are based on change rapidly. It is obvious that accelerating the PDLC (Product Development Lifecycle) can produce tangible benefits to the business. It can influence all the business success measures such as:
• Revenue generation
• Early to market advantage
• Competitive advantage
• Profits and profitability
• Customer Loyalty
As most of the above-mentioned measures are critical to the success of any business so any initiative which can drive Time-To-Market will be of utmost importance.
Engineer to Order Product Development
Considerable activities before the launch of the product lie with the Research and Development and the Engineering department for most of the products. The kind of initiatives which engineering can embark on to make sure that it gets the most out of every second are:
- Standardization: The engineering processes standardization can help avoid reinventing the complete product from the scratch each time a new request is received for developing a completely engineer-to-order product. It may not be possible to standardize the entire product as that will make ETO lose its purpose. However, the engineering standardization can be done at the parts level. By process and part standardization there can be a significant reduction in the time spent on engineering information creation and management, procuring and holding, parts handling, assembly line adjustments, etc.
- Collaboration: Collaborative engineering across divisions, plants, offices or business units from different countries can reduce the need for repeated engineering. A collaborative engineering environment can accelerate innovation and help avoid redundancy in engineering efforts thus reducing the time to market to significantly lower levels.
- Engineering Agility: In case of ETO products, each delivery is a new product development. To respond to RFP (Request for Proposal) extensive engineering may be involved in comparison to other products. Agility in engineering via a lean and mean pre-bid engineering mechanism can compress the lead time for proposals. This reduces the cost of pre-bid engineering as well as enhances the chances of winning the order. The agility can have a tremendous impact on the award-to-delivery phase of the product.
Make to Order Product Development
- Modularization: To assemble MTO products considerable time is needed depending upon the complexity of the assembly mechanism. By modularizing the assemblies as well as sub-assemblies into repeatable and reusable modules the speed to market can be enhanced. Also, modularization can help in reducing engineering effort significantly by enabling the reusability of modules in future development by simply replacing the obsolete technology.
- Standardization: In MTO standardization has a similar impact as in ETO at the building or manufacturing stage. This engineering initiative can help accelerate POC and eliminate uncertainties associated with assembly, thereby reducing downtime and unplanned delays. Standardization also helps increase asset utilization and enhances throughput so drives profitability.
- Engineering Agility: The engineering agility for MTO products provide the same benefits as in ETO products. Agility can help in increasing the engineering throughput, drives utilization, and engineering profitability.
Make to Stock Products
The MTS products best perceive the benefits of reducing the time to market. The means of achieving this is maximum for MTS products. The engineering initiatives that impact the TTM are as follows:
- Rapid Prototyping
- Continual Improvement
- Concurrent Engineering
- First time right
In all, it is evident that engineering can have a far-reaching impact on your business when it is aimed at solving TTM challenges. A lot of business metrics can be driven by just focusing engineering efforts on compressing TTM. But it also makes one wonder why most manufacturing companies have not embarked on such initiatives already or even if they have, why have they not resulted in the benefits that they clearly seem to be capable of delivering.
This is a question that may have a lot of answers, but one clear answer is the lack of clearly defined purpose and a measure of success. Like most initiatives the key driver to completion let alone success is the definition of measures of success of that initiative. Unfortunately, the key measures of success impacted by these initiatives are business measures and are seldom associated with engineering. However, this also goes on to emphasize the fact that engineering is also not just an isolated department, but one that can truly spell success or failure for a manufacturing enterprise.