Small to Mid-Sized Manufacturing Firms: Unique Innovation Challenges

If you operate a small to mid-sized manufacturing enterprise (SME), how are you going to grow revenue and earnings? Every company relies on organic growth of their core products. For most that is typically not enough to sustain the business long term. Geographic expansion and acquisitions can help in some circumstances but long-term, a company must innovate or the business will stagnate and be eclipsed by competitive forces. This is especially true in today’s hyper-competitive environment (1).  Continue reading

A 5-Step Approach to Reduce Time-to-Market

faster

Getting products to market faster is a common objective for every company. While the motivation varies, there are clear benefits including capturing more sales, beating competition to market, providing market flexibility and maintaining a leadership position. Reducing time-to-market can also be a focal point for improving the overall innovation management process (1).  Continue reading

Understanding Risk in Medical Device New Product Development (NPD)

risk_managementNew product development (NPD) consists of workflow, decision and information flow across multiple functions in an organization. Managing and mitigating risk for each project and the entire portfolio of projects is an essential management activity during NPD. A company’s ability to understand and manage risk can mean the difference between financial success and disaster. In developing products for the medical device industry, meeting FDA requirements presents an additional risk factor not found in other industries. This article will address three important sources of risk in developing products for the medical device industry and suggestions on how to manage. There will also be an opportunity to register for an upcoming free webinar that will provide additional information. Continue reading

Online Portfolio Management Tool: A Case Study

LogoFor any size business that undertakes multiple simultaneous projects, the ability to manage the project portfolio is a constant struggle (1). Think about what happens at most companies, large and small: over time, more projects get started before existing projects are complete, and new ideas become higher priority. Engineers are expected to work on not just one or two projects, which is ideal, but now must multi-task across multiple projects. On top of that, important customers demand new software features or enhancements to existing products or services, further diluting the focus on current projects. Statements like “every project seems to be late, never early”, “we always underestimate project cycle time” and “we constantly pull team members from a project to fix high priority customer requests” are common, especially in small to mid-sized firms. There are simply too many projects for too few resources, and the system grinds to halt. This article will describe a simple-to-use, cost effective online portfolio management tool.  Continue reading

Innovate Your Innovation Process

innovateAre you a small to mid-sized (SME) manufacturing company with a singular focus on understanding your customer needs, providing superior products to meet those needs and growing your revenue and earnings? It goes without saying that for every company, these goals should and do consume significant management bandwidth. The problem is that most organizations become too inwardly focused (1). They do not consider what might be happening outside their company, and even beyond their industry, and leverage that knowledge to create new customer value. This has driven the popularity of the concept of “open innovation”. Maybe we should extend the concept of open innovation to other important aspects of a business such as the innovation management process. Why not, in other words, “innovate your innovation process” by learning from others? Continue reading

Assessing Your New Product Development (NPD) Process

continuous learningFor anyone responsible for managing a new product development (NPD) process, continually assessing your process and learning from other’s experiences is a must. These whitepapers available at no charge cover a wide range of topics including the role of management in NPD success, metrics, project definition, portfolio management and online tools, project risk, among others.   Continue reading

Online Portfolio Management Made Simple

SimplicityFor any size business that undertakes multiple simultaneous projects, the ability to manage the project portfolio is a constant struggle (1).  In particular, the portfolio over time tends to move to a higher state of disorder akin to the concept of entropy (2). Think about what happens at most companies, large and small: over time, more projects get started before existing projects are complete. Engineers are expected to work on not just one or two projects, which is ideal, but now must multi-task across multiple projects. On top of that, important customers demand new software features or enhancements to existing products, further diluting the focus on current projects. Statements like “every project seems to be late, never early”, “we always underestimate project cycle time” and “we constantly pull team members from a project to fix high priority customer requests” are common, especially in small to mid-sized firms. There are simply too many projects for too few resources, and the system grinds to halt.  Continue reading

New Project Portfolio Management Tool for Small to Mid-Sized Companies

LogoFor any size business that undertakes multiple simultaneous projects, the ability to manage the project portfolio is a constant struggle (1).  In particular, the portfolio over time tends to move to a higher state of disorder akin to the concept of entropy (2). Think about what happens at most companies, large and small: over time, more projects get started before existing projects are complete. Engineers are expected to work on not just one or two projects, which is ideal, but now must multi-task across multiple projects. On top of that, important customers demand new software features or enhancements to existing products, further diluting the focus on current projects. Statements like “every project seems to be late, never early”, “we always underestimate project cycle time” and “we constantly pull team members from a project to fix high priority customer requests” are common, especially in small to mid-sized firms. There are simply too many projects for too few resources, and the system grinds to halt.  Continue reading

Project Portfolio Management Tool for Small to Mid-Sized Companies

Portfolio2For any size business that undertakes multiple simultaneous projects, the ability to manage the project portfolio is a constant struggle (1).  In particular, the portfolio over time tends to move to a higher state of disorder akin to the concept of entropy (2). Think about what happens at most companies, large and small: over time, more projects get started before existing projects are complete. Engineers are expected to work on not just one or two projects, which is ideal, but now must multi-task across multiple projects. On top of that, important customers demand new software features or enhancements to existing products, further diluting the focus on current projects. Statements like “every project seems to be late, never early”, “we always underestimate project cycle time” and “we constantly pull team members from a project to fix high priority customer requests” are common, especially in small to mid-sized firms. There are simply too many projects for too few resources, and the system grinds to halt.  Continue reading

The Innovation Planning Paradox

planningConventional wisdom is that a robust planning process is crucial for long term financial success. Countless books, articles and consultants emphasize the importance of long-term planning in managing innovation. Surveys suggest that companies with effective planning processes are more satisfied with their ability to innovate. For some companies, the new product development (NPD) planning horizon may be measured in months, but in other industries such as pharmaceuticals and chemicals, it may be measured in years. A recent biography of Bill Cook (1), an entrepreneur who started Cook Inc., a private Indiana-based +$1B medical device manufacturing company, made me wonder: Is a formal, robust long-term planning process a necessary condition for innovation success?  Continue reading