October 22nd, 2015
New Product Introduction
Rotork Gears is the global leader for valve gearboxes and accessories. An Institution of Mechanical Engineers training programme run by The Consultancy Company’s Harvey Leach led Steve Watkins, R+D Engineering Manager, to approach Harvey to support Rotork in improving the organisation’s New Product Introduction (NPI) processes.
A high level review of existing NPI processes revealed a requirement to reframe practices at its Leeds UK headquarters. The aim here was to drive up satisfaction levels as part of Rotork’s ongoing commitment to customer experience. From an internal perspective, ensuring Rotork Gears’ teams were well-integrated throughout the product development and manufacturing process was key.
Rotork Gears had also recognised the need to improve lead times, enhance product specification and drive down costs. Beyond a process review and redesign, The Consultancy Company identified the need for effective management of change within the business to deliver on agreed objectives:
- Reduce product development time
- Implement quicker and effective NPI processes
A traditional focus on engineering meant the Rotork Gears team reacted to customers’ perceived – rather than actual- needs with NPI projects. As experts in leading strategic change, The Consultancy Company brought in a collaborative approach, fundamentally sensitive to the business, via a series of workshops. Engaging with a wider cross-section of people from the business – from R&D and Operations through to Sales and Quality – helped identify NPI areas of improvement.
Taking best practice examples from across industry, Harvey and a dedicated core project team created a clear set of principles to address current behaviour and execution. These principles – ranging from lean product development, planning and flow through to fast feedback and gate events – were applied to support Rotork’s unique business challenges to improve existing practice.
“The Consultancy Company were the catalyst for change we needed as a business.
It was so valuable to have the external, longer-term perspective that Harvey brought. Facilitating a structure that is unique to our requirements also makes this solution more workable as we go forward.”
R&D Engineering Manager
The Consultancy Company’s solution supported the NPI journey from initial planning, concept and design through to product development, pre-production and launch. Core new principles introduced were:
- Up front technical and economic feasibility studies for sequential (rather than parallel running) projects. By singling out projects the business had the capacity to deliver, resources were utilised more effectively.
- Managing multiple concepts through the early stages of the gate process to ensure an optimised design concept before heavy investment in engineering resource, capital equipment and so on commenced.
- The adoption of a stage gate approach and clear documentation led to robust, capable, standardised processes.Clearly defined roles ensured the end-product met with initial concept, minimizing end-user issues. Opening up the process to engage the sales teams from the outset ensured a clear specification. Engaging the manufacturing team at this stage equally ensured production complexity and cost issues were fully considered before committing design and production resource.
This was all underpinned by project plans and the creation of an NPI New Product Introduction role across Rotork Gear’s two sites, enabling the team to continue to work to demonstrated performance.
The Consultancy Company worked with the Rotork team to deliver a defined structure for an improved NPI pathway, from initial concept through to production, allowing Rotork Gears to implement new products quickly and effectively. As a result, the product cycle has been halved from an average of 3.5 years down to less than 2. The team is also enjoying increased success with new product introduction as measured by the doubling in the percentage of products sold that are new or recently introduced.
Within this defined new framework, the business is experiencing an organisational change, with a more constructive approach to dialogue adopted by supply chain stakeholders. A commitment to continually improve and “believe the best of others” throughout the production process has enabled a cultural shift towards increased collaboration, allowing Rotork to maximise new NPI systems with joined-up thinking.