In several industries, the total time taken to introduce a new product into the market can be the key difference between a blockbuster and a mediocre performing new product. New Product Introduction involves several collaborative processes including product design, product quality planning, identifying and qualifying vendors and plants for sourcing components, conducting first article inspection and taking corrective actions to fix issues and finally, transitioning the product into high-volume production.

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Supply Chain and PLM vendors have attempted to solve this problem using a very narrow approach. However, in order to successfully reduce the NPI cycle time, companies need a software solution that supports end-to-end NPI process.

Packaged Solution for managing the NPI process 
A best-of-breed solution for managing the New Product Introduction process must include the following key capabilities:

  • Support for NPI capabilities within the Part Master: The enterprise must manage key NPI product data such as inspection attributes, inspection methods, skip-lot sampling plans and document attachments within its part master. Since these capabilities are not typically available within the existing ERP part master, the NPI packaged solution must provide such capabilities and integrate them with the part master of the resident ERP system.
  • Bid Package Mgmt: Creating a Bid Package for vendor selection involves close collaboration between product management, engineering, quality, purchasing and internal operations. The NPI solution must provide the ability to leverage technology for enabling close cooperation between the collaborating organizations as they prepare the bid package documents, compile the bid package documents, and implement a workflow approval process before sending the package and tracking responses from vendors.
  • Vendor Audit & Qualification: Vendor audit is usually a key step in the acceptance process, before a component or sub-assembly from a vendor is approved for production. In most companies today, vendor audit is a manual process. The packaged NPI solution must provide an audit capability, with flexible administration, to handle questions/checklists that can vary by vendor, site and part. Not only does the configuration of checklists/questions have to be flexible but the audit responses must be configurable and quantifiable as well. The necessary reporting infrastructure to analyze this information must also be available.
  • First Article Inspection: Reducing NPI cycle time by automating the First Article Inspection (FAI) process is an important aspect of a packaged NPI solution. The system should allow the user to easily setup FAI checklists and then enable the inspectors to capture appropriate FAI data against the checklists during the inspection process. The results of the FAI are then reviewed by Engineering and Product Management based on which the FAI could either be approved or rejected. Unless a FAI is approved, production parts cannot be received by the receiving dock. The FAI capability should support information capture, collaboration and the ability to identify opportunities for improving delays in NPI.
  • Corrective Actions: This capability takes the results of the FAI process, identifies issues, and enables root cause analysis, creation of corrective action plans and implementation of those plans. The solution must support collaboration with suppliers to ensure reduction in problem resolution cycle times.
  • Ongoing Inspections and Corrective Action: The system must support ongoing inspections and corrective actions during the production ramp-up process leading to new product introduction. Inspections and corrective actions ensure low PPM in the final product and provide a mechanism for continuous process improvement.
  • Cost Recovery: The process typically allows for complete cost recovery from suppliers during the ramp-up leading to NPI for any non-conformances once the FAI is completed. The system must provide capabilities to support the cost-recovery process and must provide mechanisms to include both - costs of components and the costs incurred by the manufacturer while adding value to that component. Most cost recovery process are managed manually and don’t incorporate non-material costs, which may be over half the total cost of processing non-conforming components from suppliers.

The following diagram illustrates the integrated Process Flows in the NPI process.

NPI process

Packaged Software Solution

FAI Inspection

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Using the MetricStream Platform and Applications for NPI cycle time reduction 
MetricStream, a market leader in compliance and quality software, provides key capabilities to manage a New Product Introduction process. These capabilities include:

  • Audit Management
  • First Article Inspection
  • Corrective Action
  • Change Management
  • Cost Recovery
  • Document Management
  • Analytics
  • Process Dashboard

In addition, its platform for Compliance and Quality Management includes capabilities such as Event Management, Notification and Escalation Management and Workflow Management, which can be used to customize existing applications or rapidly develop specific capabilities that integrate with existing modules listed above.

Reduction in NPI cycle times has become an important focus area for most companies. They are increasingly implementing packaged NPI solutions. Such solutions include Bid Package Management, Vendor Qualification and Audit, First Article Inspection (FAI), Non-Conformance tracking, Corrective Action Request Management, Ongoing inspections, Cost Recovery and Process Performance Dashboards.

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