R & D Prototype Production

Situation:

The typical time to transform an R & D prototype product into a full production product was 3-5 months. This would include anywhere from 3 to 7 engineering revisions possible during that period to “tweak” the product into its desired operational specification envelope. During this time several hundred to literally thousands of individual units would typically be built, assembled, and tested for each of the revisions.

 

Target:

This research project was undertaken to attempt to understand and gauge the potential impact of unit level identification to the time to market development cycle. The engineering organization wanted to determine whether or not the application of sampling of the product, linked with the statistical analyses could positively impact the development cycle without negatively impacting the quality of the final product at the end of that development.

 

Plan:

Identify each specific unit made in each “engineering” batch and use this identification to pinpoint problem areas within the batch. Gradually reduce the number of units to be “built out” from each batch as directed by engineering personnel, potentially eliminating the need to fully test EVERY unit from the batch before making a change to manufacturing processing. Continue to reduce the number of units assembled and therefore tested throughout the development lifecycle to determine the impact of this item level analysis.

 

Result:

Representative test unit production was reduced from 100% per batch to 2-3% per batch, allowing for quicker turnaround throughout product development. Turnaround time between engineering versions was reduced by more than an order of magnitude. Total time to market was reduced by a minimum of 30%.

Note: Additionally, capital equipment required to conduct testing was reduced by an order of magnitude (at $1-2M/test system). Test equipment was removed from the engineering development areas and turned over to production facilities for use in testing the final, full production release of the new product. Over and above this capital savings, the effective use of engineers’ development of products was significantly improved by the faster product development turnaround time.

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