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New Products: Get in on the Ground Floor

Just 28% of quality errors are resolved before they affect customers or business partners within the organization, CEB research shows.  Those issues found their way into headlines throughout 2012:

It’s important to make sure Quality’s involvement in new product development goes beyond simply ticking a box.  But how can you convince stakeholders that Quality should be involved every step of the way?

Our research shows that 63% of companies include Quality in their new product development team.  However, just 31% of respondents from the Quality function described their department as exerting a strong influence on the team.  Some said their company focuses on manufacturing rather than design quality. Some respondents noted that meeting the product launch date was by far the most important objective.

To gain clout, you might estimate how much a recall would cost your company – in time as well as in money.  Demonstrate that building time for quality checks into the production schedule can avoid delays later.

Members surveyed by CEB cited a variety of benefits from using quality tools early in the product development process: 78% reported fewer post-launch quality issues, 72% said their products had fewer defects, 61% pointed to increased customer satisfaction, and 44% said their company had saved money, with an equal percentage saying they’d saved time.

Look to past projects for help determining the costs of a failed or delayed product and explain your point of view to your business partners.  Emphasize that regular reviews won’t mean finding someone to blame, but rather fixing glitches before they become major problems.  Make sure stakeholders know your suggestions don’t mean slowing down the time-to-market, but that rigorous processes save time overall.  If business partners fully understand the risks they’re taking by not integrating Quality into the development process, they’ll be eager to save time, money, bad press, and the headache of recalls by giving Quality a voice.

Following the recall of a key product, a medical products developer and manufacturer revamped its new product development methods.  The company concluded that Quality wasn’t actively involved with development because it played a murky role in the process, advising the team when needed rather than at standard checkpoints.

The company decided to change that, including Quality in cross-functional groups that led reviews at scheduled intervals.  Rather than waiting to be asked, Quality stepped in at fixed moments to have its say.  “If you really take the time to set good specs and have good test methods, you really save yourself a lot of time.  But there is always an element of the corporation that say, ‘don’t worry about these specs—just get me something.’  Until you define what that something is, you really aren’t going to hit it,” said a senior vice president of quality from the company.

The result: The company improved its on-time rates by 50% and its project predictability by 25%.

Looking for more resources on Quality’s role in product development?


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