Reducing uncertainty in new product development

Higgins, Paul Anthony (2008) Reducing uncertainty in new product development. PhD thesis, Queensland University of Technology.

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Research and Development engineering is at the corner stone of humanity’s evolution. It is perceived to be a systematic creative process which ultimately improves the living standard of a society through the creation of new applications and products. The commercial paradigm that governs project selection, resource allocation and market penetration prevails when the focus shifts from pure research to applied research. Furthermore, the road to success through commercialisation is difficult for most inventors, especially in a vast and isolated country such as Australia which is located a long way from wealthy and developed economies.

While market leading products are considered unique, the actual process to achieve these products is essentially the same; progressing from an idea, through development to an outcome (if successful). Unfortunately, statistics indicate that only 3% of ‘ideas’ are significantly successful, 4% are moderately successful, and the remainder ‘evaporate’ in that form (Michael Quinn, Chairman, Innovation Capital Associates Pty Ltd). This study demonstrates and analyses two techniques developed by the author which reduce uncertainty in the engineering design and development phase of new product development and therefore increase the probability of a successful outcome. This study expands the existing knowledge of the engineering design and development stage in the new product development process and is couched in the identification of practical methods, which have been successfully used to develop new products by Australian Small Medium Enterprise (SME) Excel Technology Group Pty Ltd (ETG). Process theory is the term most commonly used to describe scientific study that identifies occurrences that result from a specified input state to an output state, thus detailing the process used to achieve an outcome. The thesis identifies relevant material and analyses recognised and established engineering processes utilised in developing new products. The literature identified that case studies are a particularly useful method for supporting problem-solving processes in settings where there are no clear answers or where problems are unstructured, as in New Product Development (NPD). This study describes, defines, and demonstrates the process of new product development within the context of historical product development and a ‘live’ case study associated with an Australian Government START grant awarded to Excel Technology Group in 2004 to assist in the development of an image-based vehicle detection product. This study proposes two techniques which reduce uncertainty and thereby improve the probability of a successful outcome.
The first technique provides a predicted project development path or forward engineering plan which transforms the initial ‘fuzzy idea’ into a potential and achievable outcome. This process qualifies the ‘fuzzy idea’ as a potential, rationale or tangible outcome which is within the capability of the organisation. Additionally, this process proposes that a tangible or rationale idea can be deconstructed in reverse engineering process in order to create a forward engineering development plan. A detailed structured forward engineering plan reduces the uncertainty associated with new product development unknowns and therefore contributes to a successful outcome. This is described as the RETRO technique. The study recognises however that this claim requires qualification and proposes a second technique.
The second technique proposes that a two dimensional spatial representation which has productivity and consumed resources as its axes, provides an effective means to qualify progress and expediently identify variation from the predicted plan. This spatial representation technique allows a quick response which in itself has a prediction attribute associated with directing the project back onto its predicted path. This process involves a coterminous comparison between the predicted development path and the evolving actual project development path. A consequence of this process is verification of progress or the application of informed, timely and quantified corrective action. This process also identifies the degree of success achieved in the engineering design and development phase of new product development where success is defined as achieving a predicted outcome. This spatial representation technique is referred to as NPD Mapping. The study demonstrates that these are useful techniques which aid SMEs in achieving successful new product outcomes because the technique are easily administered, measure and represent relevant development process related elements and functions, and enable expedient quantified responsive action when the evolving path varies from the predicted path. These techniques go beyond time line representations as represented in GANTT charts and PERT analysis, and represent the base variables of consumed resource and productivity/technical achievement in a manner that facilitates higher level interpretation of time, effort, degree of difficulty, and product complexity in order to facilitate informed decision making. This study presents, describes, analyses and demonstrates an SME focused engineering development technique, developed by the author, that produces a successful new product outcome which begins with a ‘fuzzy idea’ in the mind of the inventor and concludes with a successful new product outcome that is delivered on time and within budget. Further research on a wider range of SME organisations undertaking new product development is recommended.

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ID Code: 20273
Item Type: QUT Thesis (PhD)
Supervisor: Troutbeck, Rodney & Rakotonirainy, Andry
Keywords: new product development, technical specification development, product development specification, NPD Map, RETRO, process engineering, linear process, concurrent process, adaptive process, research and development, R&D, design and development, engineering process, engineering development, forward engineering, reverse engineering, new product concept, fuzzy idea, innovative idea, product complexity, degree of difficulty, SME, Startup, Excel Technology Group, ETG, QUT, PERT, GANTT, spatial representation, predicted development plan, alignment theory, process theory, milestone, performance measurement, quantifying design and development engineering, technical achievement, consumed resource, self learning, compounding knowledge, QA, quality management, technical specification, informed decision making, spatial variation, responsive action, spinoff project, vehicle detection, technical risk, non-existent rational outcome, process review, video detector, image-based vehicle detector
Divisions: Current > Research Centres > Centre for Accident Research & Road Safety - Qld (CARRS-Q)
Institution: Queensland University of Technology
Deposited On: 30 Apr 2009 05:05
Last Modified: 28 Oct 2011 19:52

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