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Next-Generation Research and Product Development

Like many traditional business practices, research and product development is undergoing an evolution that will require new perspectives and practices to ensure sustained competitiveness.

Some of the drivers behind these changes include the proliferation of products on market, an information overflow, increased digitization, globally connected work tasks, and the integration of hardware and software. To keep up with this pace of change, companies need to turn their focus to lean R&D/engineering practices.

Traditionally, R&D/engineering consisted of a fixed set of requirements and specifications. The process from concept to final product moved in a linear sequence. Product testing was based on mock-ups and prototypes, often requiring long lead times. And once the final product was introduced and evaluated, any failure would require a complete process restart—an expensive and risky proposition.

The future of lean R&D/engineering will look very different:

  • Shorter-cycled feedback loops for continuous recalibration of product requirements
  • Shorter parallel development sequences to maximize process efficiency
  • Digital engineering and rapid product prototyping to shorten time to market and reduce costs
  • Set-based product design and systematic evaluation of alternatives for minimizing risk
  1. Producing Unnecessary Information or Products. This type of waste is reflected in redundant, parallel development processes marked by a lack of communication or a long-overdue decision to terminate an underperforming product.
  2. Producing More Than Is Needed. Perhaps it’s an overengineered product with too many extra features, or perhaps workers spend too much time reinventing the wheel instead of innovating new products.
  3. Movement That Does Not Produce Value. Maybe product information is pushed to the wrong people through excessive e-mail copying, or workers spend too much time searching for the information they need to do their job.
  4. Movement That Destroys Value. Are there too many hand-offs in product development? Are there inefficiencies, such as incompatible software that requires a manual carry-over of information, that slow production?
  5. Inventory Redundancies. This includes detailing half-finished features before the work is complete, or using ad hoc information management solutions and individual filing systems.
  6. Defects in Products or Data. Defects can be caused by poorly executed processes, such as measurement errors due to bad methodology or incorrect calculations and errors in data input.
  7. Waiting. Too much time is spent gaining approvals, waiting for required hand-offs, or waiting for additional information.
  8. Underutilized Talent and Creativity. It’s wasteful to use highly skilled employees for repetitive tasks such as data input. An early design freeze can also cause waste by curtailing creativity and innovation.
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