The Naughty Baby Bear!
I remember a story told by one of my ex-colleagues.
An R&D Engineer was walking in a Forest. The R&D Engineer was carrying a young Bear which was very naughty, and the R&D Engineer was struggling to keep it in his hands as it was scratching him all over the body! The R&D Engineer could not keep it down as it may escape, and his Boss would take him to task. He came across a Colleague who happens to be a Production Engineer in the same company. R&D Engineer called him out and asked him to hold the Bear while he would go to attend to a nature call. The poor Production Engineer could see that the young Bear was very naughty. But he believed his colleague that he would come back and took the naughty Bear in to his hands. The R&D Engineer dashed off never to come back! The Production Engineer was left to struggle with the Naughty Bear!!
My Ex-Colleague was telling me that this is the way New Product hand over happens in Companies!! You can easily understand that this guy was from Manufacturing side!!
Looking at my experience in dealing with about 40 Companies, I think this is fairly accurate description. No one to be blamed. Neither the R&D Engineer who has to deal with many a Naughty Bear nor the Production Engineer who is not equipped to handle untrained young Naughty Bears.
Simply the system is not there to handle these problems.
Handing over of New Products: A Process that is simply non-existent in many Companies!!
Indian Manufacturing Companies are handling several New Products compared to a decade back. There are more Car Models / Two-wheeler Models / Truck models / Capital Machinery models / Hand phone models / New Foods in the market than ever. Customers are having more choice than ever. All this choice made possible by Millions of Engineers across the Country who are working in Factories producing these New Products.
There are some companies that manage the New Products in a very systematic manner. In most of the cases, these belong to the Automotive industry where the New Product development process has matured more than other Industries. But, even in the Automotive industry I have seen companies that have no or minimal process in the area of ‘Handing over the New Products’ to Production.
We notice several scenarios in Companies regarding New Product Handovers.
01. Customer wants it yesterday: There are situations when the Customer would be sitting in the Company to get the New Product developed. The Company has to respond as the Customer has this urgency. Typically following would happen in such a situation:
a. Product may be developed with Adhoc processes everywhere. May be temporary tooling is used. No manufacturing process is defined. Trials are done right in front of the Customer.
b. Customer closes his eyes to several process violations.
c. The Customer team and the Supplier company team together cooks up a lot of documentation.
d. The Customer tests the Product in a great hurry. Only if very big issues are there, the reworks are done.
e. The Production team has to handle high volumes very quickly in this situation.
f. The Supplier Company would take several short cuts, spends much more money than warranted to meet up with Customer demand.
g. No one even talks about the high Rework / Losses in the Value stream.
h. Everyone is simply focused on the Quantity going out.
i. The whole process is highly inefficient. But, the high Volumes may cover up the losses in most of the Cases.
j. No one would seriously address the situation as the Customer is happy he got what he wanted and Supplier is happy a high Volume Product had been introduced.
k. Production team gets used to ‘handling the mess’.
l. Very often the Process is left in this ‘High Loss’ situation till one day when Customer wakes up and starts tightening up the whole process. Usually this happens when the QA Head changes at the Customer end!!
m. The Supplier would start having high losses due to sudden tightening up of Quality standards. He has no defenses as the ‘unwritten acceptance’ of deviations to Quality standards cannot be quoted.
02. Customer wants it but is not sure when: When there is no urgency for the New Product, the Supplier would push the New Product to the Customer. He would have got it developed in the Company at normal pace. But, the handing over to Production does not happen properly as there is no Schedule from Customer. Usually following types of issues are faced in companies:
a. Production refuses to take charge of the Product as the agreed number of Pilot batches are not done.
b. If even this process of doing Pilot Batches is not there in the Company, then the New Product becomes OLD just by passing of time.
c. When the Customer finally gives schedule for the New Product, no one knows the issues with the Product. Sometimes the New Product Development team would have left the company!
d. The Product would hit the Shop floor and all hell breaks loose.
e. The Product would have Quality problems at every stage.
f. The Manufacturing process is not defined properly as enough number of Products were not produced.
g. The intricate details of Process control / CTQ parameters were never identified.
h. Now, the Company starts learning about the New Product afresh!!
i. The Customer would have several Bad Batches before he can get acceptable Quality and acceptable Quantity.
03. The Normal Course(?!): In all normal Product Development Cases, most of the Companies deal with issues regarding the Quality and Quantity. The Root causes may be lying in following areas:
i. Voice of Customer would not have been collected meticulously. This results in multiple iterations of the Development.
ii. Manufacturing Process is not defined clearly. No one from Manufacturing participates in the Product Development.
iii. The Product Development is handled only by a bunch of R&D Engineers.
iv. The Development team would not have got the Manufacturing facilities to produce the number of Products required to establish the process.
v. Suppliers do not show interest in the new products as the volume is low and it would affect their Bulk supplies!
vi. When the volumes pick up, the Suppliers would start giving bad quality products or the Quantity simply does not take off!
This way, the New Product handing over to Production gets in to serious trouble in most of the Companies.
Most of the Indian Companies are developing more New Products than ever. I would suggest a Solution that I saw working in many companies that I have been involved in. There can be several other solutions. But I believe this can be a solution for situations where you are looking at New Product Development in a big way for sustained periods of time.
Organization for New Product Development
Technology / Product Development / Product Productionising: Companies need to have separate organization for continuously developing the Product Technology to the next level, they also need to have a team for Developing the Products with existing technology and then they need to have a team for Productionising the Products.
Having these three teams would help in giving importance to all three major activities. Otherwise one of these would be a victim to the limited resources that a company would have. A company that is having sustained New Product Development pressure should invest in to this Organization structure.
Full time Organization for Productionising: Now looking at the subject that we are currently dealing with, I would recommend a full-time team for Productionising the New Products.
Normally Productionising the New Products is handled by Part time Production / Quality / Procurement team that never have time for the New Products. They are always busy, and they never give as much time as is needed for the New Product development.
It would be good to get people from following functions and put them in to one ‘Productionisation function’:
- Manufacturing Engineering
- After Sales Service
The members from these Functions should be rotated every 2-3 years. This would ensure that these members retain their Functional Point of view and will not become R&D Engineers in disguise!
There should be a Leader for this Function who should be from one of the above Functions and not from R&D.
This team should physically sit along with R&D Team.
The Leader of this team should report to the R&D Head. Hence the Productionising is taken up broadly by the R&D. But with the support of a FULL TIME team.
Administrative control and Functional Control: When you put together a Productionisation organization with all the functions mentioned above, one needs to recognize the importance of Functional Knowledge / Processes in each of the functions mentioned above. The Functional Leaders should keep giving the Functional Leadership to the People in the Productionisation organisation. If the Quality Engineers in the Productionisation organisation are disowned by the Quality Head, then the same problems will be carried forward as they are in the current situation.
The Quality Head has to define the Systems and procedures for a Quality function while receiving new Products. This has to be followed by the team in the Productionisation team and the Mother function should keep conducting audits to check this situation.
Same is the case for all other functional people in the Productionisation team.
The R&D Head should let this Matrix structure work. If he becomes too possessive of the team, then we would not be having a proper solution to our problems!
Manufacturing facilities: Next problem that many companies deal with is, the availability of Manufacturing facilities for Initial Production.
The Production of New Products can never be at the full speed straight away. There will be some amount of Capacity loss. This is reality and we need to face it. Companies have to decide whether exclusive facilities can be given for Initial Production of New Products or it can be done in the regular Production facilities. Both strategies can be made to work with proper Systems. A Company can chose its’ solution depending on its own situation.
But it has to take a decision. Indecisive behavior of Management in this area can put it back by a few years in New Product Development.
Functions of the Productionisation team: This team would handle following types of activities to ensure smooth handing over of the New Products.
- Voice of Customer collection: As full-time team is there from several functions; the VOC collection would be much more effective with everyone’s point of view coming in.
- Participating actively in the Product Development: As the Productionisation team is full time, they would be participating in the Development actively. This would ensure better attention to DFM / DFA (Designed for manufacturing / Assembly).
- Receiving the Product from Proto Team: The Productionisation team should be very careful and use Check lists to see that Product they are receiving from Proto Team is acceptable to them. Each team has to own up what they need to own up. Right questions have to be asked at the right time.
- Material Planning: The Material planning and availability would improve as the Materials person is sitting within this team.
- Production activity: The Initial Production would be much more effective as the Production people are handling it and issues that are coming out are quickly being attended to by the R&D Engineers. As both Teams have same Boss, the interactions become easy.
- Quality Planning: The Quality Plan preparation can be handled by the Manufacturing Engineering team and Quality team in a seamless manner as they are sitting together.
- Hand over: When the required numbers are produced, the Productionisation team will hand over to the Regular Production with whom they can communicate better as they are one team.
Program Manager: In addition to the structure above, a Program Manager role would help in putting focus right from VOC to Delivery to the Customer. Each Program Manager may handle ‘x’ number of Projects.
This type of Organizational Structure level Solution can work very well for Indian Manufacturing Companies. This can ensure that the New Product Development and handing over to the Manufacturing is given its’ due importance. Especially when more New Products are coming in to Production, if this type of Organizational Structure level solution is not put in place, the Company would be inviting a lot of trouble in terms of unstable Production and unprofitable New Products!
How well are you addressing New Product Productionisation in your Organisation?