Risky – but under control

Gaining an overview of risk on product development

Market segmentation. Customized solutions. Terms and trends that are forcing more and more manufacturing companies to provide increasing levels of variety in terms of products and processes – yet shorter innovation and product life cycles. This results in more and more development and engineering projects, which essentially fall onto the lap of development, design departments and production.

Key decision makers are often asked to create uniform guidelines so that projects run smoothly. The solution: to interlink product engineering (matching it to PROducts) with industrial engineering (matching it to PROcesses, procedures and systems) and project engineering (matching it to PROject schedules, costs and in particular customer requirements). The Stuttgart-based Steinbeis Transfer Center for Management-Innovation- Technology (MIT) interlinks this network of influences with a method called 3PRO Engineering. This method gives you an exact overview of the product development process in specific companies – and standardizes it. Resources can then be applied more efficiently and, more important, you reduce risk throughout the entire project.

How does 3PRO work? First, scheduled projects are categorized using a decisionmaking template that takes into consideration the business’s key success factors. Based on this, fundamental approaches to project implementation are identified.

Next, you draft a three part “Engineering Work Book” tailored specifically to company requirements and encompassing:

  • A Work Compendium. The companyspecific product development process and, based on this, product development – routines and agreed production organization guidelines
  • A Methods Set. Quick-fire tools for products and processes in keeping with cost and functional needs
  • A Rulebook. A working manual for members of the project team. Rules include checklists and design rules for creating products and production techniques. These describe standards and routines in more detail.

How projects are implemented depends largely on the scope of each project: fullsize, mid-size or slim-line. These designations dictate whether the Work Book is used in its entirety or individual modules. By using these methods and implementing them through the Work Book, project teams ensure that all engineering projects adhere to clearly defined, standardized procedures. This brings a variety of benefits: nothing is over-engineered, late customer requests can be quickly catered for and product costs can be minimized.

One company that profited from these Steinbeis techniques is a small to medium-sized manufacturer of electro-mechanical switches. The company product portfolio is aimed at the automotive sector among other areas. The company found itself having to respond to an increasing number of customer demands to take on product developments – along with production processes. The product development processes are defined only by DIN/ISO so there is plenty of space to decide in everyday operations how to meet this norm. As human resources were tight, senior managers were keen to bring more efficiency into its project management. They also wanted to create standards for product development to reduce the long-term risk of failure.

By using the 3PRO Engineering method, the company successfully achieved its goals. One of the key elements of this was the creation of a Work Book to dovetail with existing process structures. This now dictates the implementation of all engineering projects. The company actually measured the benefit of the methods used and found that it had achieved double-digit improvement in terms of time schedule, cost and targets.

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