As a manufacturer of customized solutions Central Midori has always practiced the process of NPI (New Product Introduction). In 2015 while we established our Development Center, a new department to support our customers during the phase of product development, we realized that NPI alone would not satisfy our needs.
Traditionally, Asian manufacturers like CMI engage with their customers after the end of the development cycle when the product is ready to manufacture. Customers will then provide the BOM (Bill of Materials), the design files, a set of drawings, the specifications, tolerances, sometimes even a testing protocol,and only then the NPI process can start.
With the addition of the Development Center our involvement in the design phase allowed CMI to influence early critical decisions.. This approach is called Design for Manufacturing (DFM). These decisions relate to materials, manufacturing methods, tool selection and even in some cases the manufacturer’s infrastructure. The goal is to focus on design optimization to reduce the cost of manufacturing.
Our challenges quickly became apparent.
The rigid, highly documented NPI process would not accommodate the “fuzzy front end” of the NPD process as people call the messy beginning period of product development.
As managers, our main job is to create, enforce and modify company processes. I used to say when the company makes a mistake it can be traced down to only 3 reasons:
- the procedure does not exist or
- it exists but it is not being followed or
- it is flawed
Basically it always turns out to be a management problem.
With that in mind our role was to create a NPD process to take place in the early design phase ahead of the NPI.
As mentioned earlier NPD is different from NPI. They are complementary and interconnected but distinctive.
The goal of the NPD process is to demonstrate that the product can be sold and produced profitably. It is defined by creativity and a trial and error attitude.
On the contrary the NPI process is initiated when the product features are “nearly” settled, it moves from prototypes to full scale production through multiple phases such as Engineering Verification, Design Verification and Product Validation.
Frequently the two processes overlap at one point which can be confusing.
From a talent perspective the NPD process requires entrepreneurship, nimbleness, expertise and determination. The process is loosely defined on purpose to allow flexibility.
NPI is rigid, disciplined and highly documented in an effort to ensure the strict compliance to the sequence of operations. It is not the time to take risks with some innovative ideas.
After five years we can certainly praise our Development Center for contributing the most to our Business Development efforts. The different mindsets and sets of rules to be applied to both the NPD and the NPI processes have a lot to do with our success.