A New Product introduction (NPI) process defines the methods and stages required for a smooth transition from the design to manufacturing. These complex projects incorporate numerous components and subassemblies and often involve extensive collaborations across an organization. Thanks in part to the high level of difficulty, key steps in NPI processes are frequently missed or executed incorrectly, ultimately preventing a substantial amount of products from ever making it to market. To help businesses recognize the pitfalls associated with the NPI process, we made a list of three common mistakes associated with these projects and provide our own best practices.
Pitfall #1. Poor NPI Project Management
Like many products, NPI project managers need the right team, an applicable plan and effective communication.
ASSEMBLING A NPI PROJECT TEAM A NPI project starts with assembling a NPI project team. An experienced NPI launch manager is the key to project success. A typical cross-functional NPI taskforce includes the following functional constituencies with distributed responsibilities:
- Product Design Engineer: Engineering Design verification
- Supply Chain Specialist: Create AVL/ACL for the new product
- Sales Account Manager: Create BOMs in manufacturing ERP system per product specifications
- Quality Engineer: Create material quality inspection criteria and checklists
- Manufacturing Engineer: Create Manufacturing Process Instruction (MPI)
- Technical Account Manager: Manage system hardware/software configurations, create Testing Process Instruction (TPI)
- Quality Assurance Officer: Oversees ISO and QMS compliance
CREATING A NPI PROJECT PLAN The NPI process consists of a number of phases separated by milestones. During each phase, the NPI taskforce executes various coordinated activities, resulting in specified deliverables. A typical NPI project plan consists of the following key milestones:
- All product engineering, design, contractual and specification requirements are correctly understood, accounted for, verified and recorded
- Shop floor, materials, tooling, processes, documentation and personnel are capable of consistently producing a compliant product
- Part assembly is 100% compliant, defined, baselined and repeatable
- Verification is completed for all product design characteristics
- Manufacturing process verifications are made through pilot productions and manufacturing readiness review (MRR) meetings
- Nonconformance resolutions are made
- First article inspection (FAI) is completed with a FAI report (FAIR)
BREAKDOWN COMMUNICATION BARRIERS The most common problem that NPI projects face is poor communication. So often, engineers working in specific technical “silos” miss critical product information that should be provided by their functional peers. Furthermore, communications across a corporation's boundaries between customer and vendors often results in insufficient product configuration information and manufacturing data. To overcome these challenges, NPI project team needs to be proactive and plan ahead. Lines of communication, reoccurring meetings, and systems for sharing information all need to be established.
Pitfall #2. Overlooking DFX
The initial product designs often miss many product aspects that could cause real-world problems, such as obsolete components, unrealistic costs, unwanted features, and a lack of manufacturability or serviceability. Employing design for excellence (DFX) practices during NPI stage can significantly improve the original design. Practicing DFX during NPI stage creates a pathway to manufacture the product using existing manufacturing infrastructures and processes with lower operational costs and less quality risk. Some of common DFX practices include:
- Design for Cost
- Design for Quality
- Design for Manufacturability
- Design for Serviceability
- Design for Compliance
Pitfall #3. Ignorance in Compliance
There are increasing requirements in product standards and regulations. Failure to fully understand regulatory requirements can prevent a product from getting to market. And yet, companies continuously ignore product regulatory compliance during NPI stage. Common fallacies include:
- Dealing with regulatory compliance requirements as an afterward “add-on” feature rather than a “DFX” task from the beginning of product design phase.
- Treating regulatory compliance as an isolated responsibility, delegated solely to engineering, rather than as a series of control process across the entire supply chain and manufacturing process.
- Managing regulatory compliance at component level as a “flag on a part number” rather than integrated management processes at system level into the configuration
As part of the risk management plan, compliance management has merged into the master QMS practice in today’s manufacturing industry. To fulfill requirements of regulatory compliance, companies need to implement an automated compliance management system for tracking, documenting, and reporting product compliance status throughout the product lifecycle.