Box 82 Selfassessment and benchmarking product development in five Irish firms

The main objectives of the study were:

• establish benchmarks of current practice in the management of the product development process in five manufacturing firms drawn from differing industries in Ireland;

• increase awareness of areas of choice in the management of product development among manufacturing firms in Ireland with a view to improving their management of the product development process.

Each company selected two recent product development projects for assessment. Each project illustrated development in different situations or different approaches to development. The projects represented different degrees of product change and manufacturing process change. Six of the ten projects fell into the category of incremental or derivative projects, four of the projects were platform or next-generation projects.

The self-assessment and benchmarking approach consisted of three generic phases: data gathering and initial self-assessment; communication of insights both within and between the firms; development and discussion of action plans. All three phases required the active participation of up to ten staff members in each firm, drawn from the product development projects under review.

Arising out of the research each firm identified a range of performance limiting practices in its development process, which had caused schedule delay or cycle time extension through:

• insufficient up-front technology planning and development,

• reacting to short-term resource shortages,

• accepting productivity limiting practices,

• inadequate product and product line planning,

• allowing requirements to float,

• reliance on major versus incremental changes.

The issues were concentrated in the areas of market focus, teamworking, transfer of manufacturing, leadership, resourcing and performance evaluation.

Source: After Coughlan and Brady, 1995.

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