Design and development checks unveil potential

Work on successful Steinbeis projects being handed on to colleagues

Even if it can take many months or even years for development work to bear fruit, no one denies how important design and development (D&D) is to the success of a business. But can the product development process (PDP) practiced within a company also secure future success? How can companies estimate the appropriate levels of D&D resources, or leverage potential, or organize the overall PDP efficiently? Two medium-sized companies from the fields of drive technology and temperature control equipment used in manufacturing processes grappled with these questions. And they found answers – thanks to the work of Steinbeis.

The drive technology producer, a business from the German region of Franken, offers a broad range of products including spur gear and planet gear motors as well as angular geared motors – with an emphasis on customized solutions. Bridging the gap between series production and tailored one-offs, in addition to tripled sales volumes over the course of ten years, made it necessary for the manufacturer to rethink D&D structures and the processes followed in the PDP. In collaboration with the experts from Steinbeis, the Steinbeis PotentialCheck was used to assess the situation in the D&D department and examine the PDP process. One of the main goals was to identify quick wins and make the structure of D&D more future-ready. Based on the results of the analysis, procedures used to develop readyto- mount system solutions for customer-specific projects were merged with the in-house development process. By restructuring personnel, centralizing certain activities into one location, and introducing project managers to work on individual segments, engineering was reorganized to work more effectively, focus more closely on market needs, and react more quickly to changing requirements. As a result, it became possible to acquire international projects which were also successfully implemented. In certain specialized market segments, the company gained market leadership. To help with planning and costs, the Steinbeis experts also provided support with the introduction of enterprise software which is now used as a management and financial monitoring instrument in D&D. The next step will be to expand the existing system and set up a D&D dashboard to integrate management and communication within the department. The success of any company is primarily a function of its people. To do justice to the increasingly demanding projects carried out in D&D, a medium-sized producer of temperature control equipment used in manufacturing processes recognized the need to optimize the constellation of people working in project teams. The Steinbeis experts invited to help with the project also decided to use the Steinbeis PotentialCheck instrument. Mixed teams of company employees and Steinbeis experts defined a made-to-measure list of key criteria. During this process, the Steinbeis experts were able draw on a wealth of experience involving appropriate criteria and evaluation benchmarks. Running the checks involved answering the following questions: What strengths and potential are offered by Person X compared to the average of other D&D employees? Which D&D employees are in a position to assume responsibility for projects and what can be done to expand the pool of project managers overall? One result of the collaborative project was that suitable training measures could be identified for individual employees. Some went on seminars specially developed and provided by Steinbeis D&D for employees and managers. Although originally skeptical, even the works council was impressed by the results after the project ended. The Steinbeis PotentialCheck is just one of several services that have been developed and used many times by the Steinbeis Transfer Center Production and Management (under the direction of Prof. Arno Voegele) over the past 25 years. This has primarily been for medium-sized enterprises. As part of a business succession arrangement, this work will be continued by Stephan Rimpl, Oliver Brehm and Georg Villinger at the Steinbeis Transfer Center for Development, Manufacturing, and Management. The plan is to continue expanding work in “technical management” services and seminars. The three Steinbeis experts are highly versed in the process chain required during the product development process. The center works as a partner to small and medium-sized enterprises on technical management projects.

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