Effective NPD Life-Cycle Process – the DNA of Product Creation

Lionel Grealou PLM 2 minutes

In the Engineering and Manufacturing industry, New Product Development (NPD) typically follows an end-to-end process of bringing new products to market, consolidating and aligning product portfolio with business strategy. All products and services have certain life-cycles. The life-cycle refers to the period from the first launch of the product into the market until its final withdrawal.

The overall NPD framework is the foundation of the Product Life-cycle Management (PLM)strategy as it defines why products are introduced, how they fit in the market space and in the value offering of the organisation, what features and performance they will deliver, how long they will need to be available for and from when, who will be purchasing, using and maintaining them. Multiple representations of design are generated and high level requirements are adjusted against 

NPD basically consists of (a combination of) successive stages (or levels) and stage-gate milestones (or gateways), accounting for both technical and non-technical deliverable-based success criteria. Similar to a road-map, each gate presents a set of criteria assessments that refers to the relevant problem statement, available options and recommendations. Typically, a 10-gate framework as such:

  1. Idealization & investigation
  2. Option screening & feasibility analysis
  3. Concept development & testing
  4. Business pilot & validation
  5. Prototyping & market testing
  6. Industrialization & implementation
  7. Product launch
  8. Manufacturing deployment, pricing and positioning
  9. Service operations
  10. Retirement & learning

A successful NPD stage-gate framework is broadly characterized by the value that they bring to the business ability to innovate and manage its portfolio in an agile manner:

  • Clear gate objectives and success criteria.
  • Concise and accurate program management and change management policies.
  • Clear clustering of technical and non-technical deliverables, and how they interlock.
  • Formal governance and execution rigor (possibly with the support of an Operations PMO).
  • Adaptability to align and configure the NPD framework for specific predefined project criteria (type of product, type of commercial engagement, size, locations, etc.)
  • Unification of all relevant functions and sites based on product Engineering and Manufacturing requirements.
  • Robust decision making tool because of its ability to increase responsiveness (in a current fast changing world of uncertainties including potential supply chaindisruptions and economic and monetary factors).

During the early phases of NPD, and particularly for complex products like automobiles and aircrafts, highly detailed information about the physical configuration of the product Bills of Material (BoMs) must be managed and updated as the design evolves. They include many components, sub-systems, system inter-dependencies, combined technologies, etc. It is essential to understand the product creation process and improve process effectiveness and efficiency. Once a process has been modeled and understood, it can be more intelligently changed, and make leaner so that transactional activities are standardized and optimized (waste elimination / reduction), freeing Engineers to focus on creative work

Toyota mastered (invented?) ‘lean NPD‘ by transforming the product creation process from a waterfall model to concurrent engineering framework, based on gradually narrowing the set of possibilities to converge on a final solution, overlapping development problem solving activities, leading to more iterations (better quality, less errors) and shorter lead times (less rework, flawless execution).

By gradually eliminating weaker solutions, they increase the likelihood of finding the best or better solutions.

What are your thoughts?

This post was originally published on LinkedIn on 16 July 2015.

About the Author

Lionel Grealou


Lionel Grealou, a.k.a. Lio, helps original equipment manufacturers transform, develop, and implement their digital transformation strategies—driving organizational change, data continuity and process improvement, managing the lifecycle of things across enterprise platforms, from PDM to PLM, ERP, MES, PIM, CRM, or BIM. Beyond consulting roles, Lio held leadership positions across industries, with both established OEMs and start-ups, covering the extended innovation lifecycle scope, from research and development, to engineering, discrete and process manufacturing, procurement, finance, supply chain, operations, program management, quality, compliance, marketing, etc.

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