Manufacturers of all sizes face relentless global competition. The ability to bring new, innovative products to market fast is a key to survival. Being late to market can sabotage success no matter how good the product.

Despite the urgency, few companies use modern New Product Introduction (NPI) / New Product Development (NPD) software tools. Some already have product lifecycle management (PLM) software controlling design and manufacturing yet use ad hoc internal processes for NPI. Others have no PLM in place at all. Either way, such NPI processes are inefficient.

Razorleaf works with all the leading PLM vendors, and can find the right NPI/NPD fit for your company. For those lacking an existing PLM infrastructure, there are even new cloud-based NPI systems which can be quickly installed and customized. The data you create as part of the NPI process is immediately available to the rest of the product development and manufacturing team.

Establishing Best Practices

NPI/NPD software tools are based on best practices as researched and used for years by leading manufacturers. Aberdeen Research did an investigation of new product development technology. They found companies using NPI/NPD software tools experienced a 19% increase in product revenue; a 15% decrease in product cost; and a 16% decrease in product development cost.

Information is empowering; using NPI to bring a product to market in six months instead of a year could mean 100% of the market for a season instead of sharing a market with competitors.

Standard features of NPI/NPD Software

Some vendors separate New Product Introduction from New Product Development; others treat it as a single workflow. Either way, here are the standard features to look for when selecting NPI/NPD software:

Visibility: Provides dashboard-type overview with drill-down insight.

Business Theory: Established NPI/NPD business processes including Stage-Gate and Fuzzy Front End are supported by some products. If you already use one of these methods, make sure your NPI/NPD software can support—or better yet improve—your existing workflow.

Collaboration: NPI/NPD is a team process, not Solitaire. Make sure your software can be inclusive and participatory for all team members.

NPI Repository: There should be a central—usually virtual—repository for all drawing/models, specifications, compliance documents and other data and metadata related to the new product introduction process. PLM’s “single source of truth” needs to be available at the idea stage.

Usability: Test drive any NPI solution, don’t just shop for specifications. Two products may apply the same business principles, but offer two very different user experiences.

Why digitize NPI?

Without a digital NPI system in place, something as simple as “please send me the specifications list” is an inefficient request. For example, Person A asks for the list; Person B finds (and probably updates) the Excel file, then emails a copy to Person A. There are now two copies of the Excel file, and an email transaction that can’t be easily audited. No version control, no security—certainly not a best practice. Using NPI as part of PLM, Person B knows how to access the current specifications list without asking anyone to send it. The list is always current; no need to update an Excel file. If there are problems, the ad hoc system requires continued back-and-forth messaging not stored as part of the NPI record.

This kind of information request may happen hundreds of times during the NPI/NPD process; it amounts to significant time spent just tracking down and sharing information. Some studies say 20% of an engineer’s time is spent just looking for information. If you have to ask someone for a key piece of information, your business process is broken.

Saving Money with Better Processes

The new product designer must develop a functioning product within given economic and schedule constraints. Research shows decisions made during the design stage determine 70% of a new product’s costs; decisions made during production are only 20% of product development cost. Decisions made during the first 5% of product design can establish the majority of product cost, quality, and manufacturability.

Adding NPI/NPD tools to PLM can streamline the decision process and lower the cost of turning ideas into products. But PLM is more complicated than a smartphone app; PLM is a methodology enabled by software. The New Product Introduction tools available from the leading PLM vendors need to be customized for each user.

Razorleaf can help you reap both sides of the value proposition to be gained from an efficient NPI/NPD process. On the side of increased revenue, using an efficient NPI/NPD system makes the innovation process more transparent, it decreases time to market, and it makes it easier to streamline downstream processes. On the side of decreasing risks and costs, NPI/NPD tools can assist with regulatory compliance, support measures to contain costs, and simplify product liability monitoring.