Product Development – an introduction

The fundamental question posed of many R&D managers is ‘what is the rightful role of Product Development?’ and even more to the point ‘R&D is costly why do we need you’  Tough questions indeed.

In answering these challenges, we must look to the fundamental reasons for being in business, the reasons which drive most all companies.  Namely ‘to increase the value of shareholders equity or investment.’  This increase can take a range of forms, for example :-

  •             value of assets
  •             brand value
  •             cash

To achieve this, the company must be competitive.  So R&D must be directed at increasing shareholder value and competitiveness.

We must see Industrial Food Product Development as a commercial venture – an investment – and must be treated as such.  This means, R&D will be appreciated, as a valuable asset, by everyone in the organisation . It has it’s own characteristics, specific problems, opportunities, strengths and weaknesses.

Above all, it is an investment for the future by the whole organisation.  As with all investments it must be planned, monitored and exploited. Therefore, having a view to maximising the return on the investment.  With R&D a longer, strategic time frame is required.  To this end, we must all start to learn to think strategically.

Managing Your Project

Project management, as a concept, was first proposed in 1966 by Yoji Akao. The purpose,therefore, is to introduce some control into the product planning functions of the organisation. This is, a way for the Food Technologist to drive food product development to a successful end.

Loosely defined, Project Management is a system for designing products or services based on customer demands and involving all staff of the organisation.

‘Project Management is a planning process which identifies the most critical needs of the customers.  A cross-functional team then uses this ‘voice of the customer’ to develop a product (or service) in such a way that it is better than any of its competitors and as a result gains market share’ (frew 1992)

The essential purpose of Project Management:-

  • Present the voice of the customer to all employees
  • Create the shortest possible design timeline
  • Meet the needs of the customer first time without failure
  • Match the design with the available production or service delivery process
  • Avoid start-up problems in production
  • Reduce total cycle time in meeting customer requirements.

Under traditional approaches, emphasis is placed on product appearance. Therefore, considerable effort is directed at aspects that many not be important to the customer.  However, Project Management carefully and clearly defines the product. Integrates the design functions and, therefore, reduces the need for redesign.

Project Management is a means of addressing the gaps that traditionally exist between:

  • firstly, customer requirements as understood by the company and the design;
  • secondly, actual customer requirements as understood by the company; and
  • thirdly, the product as designed and the product as delivered.

Traditional approaches to food product development rely on trial and error’. The result, many repeats of the same task. The traditional approached also relies on control in production. However, not effectively ensuring that the ‘right’ product was designed in the first place.

Remember, the ‘right’ product is what the customer wants, not what we think they want. Therefore, Project Management ensures that the service/product is the ‘right’ one from the customers’ point of view.

“First, I like to talk in terms of product development and manufacturing as a piece. We used to think it was sequential, but one of the major conclusions we have reached is that it’s interactive; if you try to do it sequentially, you’re going to fail.”

                                                            Donald E. Peterson
                                                            Chairman of the Board & CEO
                                                            Ford Motor Company

The result of the different approaches to Product Development are:-

  • Shorter time to market
  • Reduced development costs
  • Lower product costs
  • Minimised capital investment
  • Reduced business risk
  • World class product quality
  • Satisfied Customers

However, Remember Project Management is NOT:-

  • Magic
  • Useful for all situations
  • Easy
  • The Complete product developments process

Let’s See How the Project Management Process Works.

There are several steps we must go through before we get to the point of designing our product features using a Project Management Matrix.

We must Determine:-

  • Company Aims, Objectives and Constraints
  • Who is the Target Market
  • What is the The Product Type
  • Most importantly, Customer Requirements for that product
  • Use PROJECT MANAGEMENT to determine  Product design Features & Processing Characteristics to ensure we meet our customer requirements and Company objectives.
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