How Effective NPI and Product Platform Strategies Create Competitive Advantage

Lionel Grealou Digital Engineering Strategy 2 minutes

Image credit: Man trucks assembly line

Developing and launching a new product require creativity, collaboration and accuracy, but also discipline and rigor. New Product Introduction (NPI) frameworks cover business case for a new product concept or idea to a market reality, typically in 3 successive steps: discover-develop-launch. It is a constantly moving target that involve cross-functional disciplines: marketing, R&D, manufacturing, service, packaging, distribution, IT, finance, HR, regulation, legal, standards, management, leadership. NPI processes are typically part of a Product (realization) Life-cycle Management (PLM) strategy – whatever the applications, tools and technologies that are selected.

Most manufacturers have development processes and procedures in place, with some levels of agility and adaptability. Typical product development challenges include lack of (the right) resources, lengthy development times, missed cost targets, product launch delays, production deviations, and an overall inability to ‘get the product out the door‘ on cost, on time and to quality. Effective phased or staged process relies on ‘natural‘ workflows, fluid dependencies and gate deliverable dependencies, not arbitrary checklists and gate reviews. Effective NPI frameworks include effective ‘light touch‘ communication and decision-making, with lean reporting and dashboards, clear purpose, efficient governance, seamless processes and lean operations.

Effective NPI aims at liberating and optimizing the use of talents so that people can focus on what are expected to do best – engineering, creating and innovating. Lean NPI is not about eliminating jobs or making employees work harder. In nearly all companies, the time employees spend doing value-added work is only 25%. The remaining 75% is wasted effort (a combination of non value-added and essential non value-added). A ‘day-in-the-life‘ of an engineer is filled with paperwork, reports, meetings, reviews and emails, but very few of the work requirements imposed on employees actually add to customer valueLean Product Development delivers the tools and training to improve the process, eliminate the waste, increase capacity with existing resources, optimize for reuse (across products, across product platforms, across functions), improve collaboration, etc. Technologies bring new ways to innovate, collaborate and be more effective in implementing best-in-class product development and manufacturing strategies.

This might seem pretty obvious, but the requirements of successful NPI include:

  • Meeting potential customer needs.
  • Leveraging existing technologies.
  • Differentiating from competitors’ products.
  • Designing for manufacture and service.
  • Enhancing brand image with relevant product portfolio strategies.
  • Promoting new product with effective marketing.
  • Delivering good Return on Investment (RoI).

Competitive advantage is fuel by the ability to create (and sell) new and innovative products, as well as the ability to manufacture and market them effectively to generate revenue and make profits. Product platform strategies contribute to efficiency and product data optimization – that will, in turn, contribute to sustained competitive advantage. A platform is a product that forms the base for a whole set of products. This approach can be cost-effective to develop a range of new products that share a set of common or carry over parts or components, or also share a set of engineering and manufacturing processes. It provides opportunity to create and use repeatable modular products or processes, reuse data across scope and purpose (economies of scope and scale).

What are your thoughts?

This post was originally published on LinkedIn on 13 December 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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