Time to Market and Pipeline Management

Many of the clients we work with and companies that we talk to rank time-to-market or meeting development schedules highly important – often the second most important priority after developing a product that meets customer requirements.  Yet we generally see product development pipelines that are overloaded.  When people are overloaded there are only three possible results.

  1. Task completion and product schedules are delayed.  The effects of this result are obvious – this undermines the time-to-market objective.
  2. Shortcuts are taken in the process and the intended level of effort with the task.  The effects of this are often hidden or not fully understood by management.  For example a design engineer may take a known and proven design approach rather than consider design alternatives, one of which might be more optimal.  Or rigorous analysis of a design e.g., FEA/CFD/thermal analysis, FMEA, etc., may not be done.  Design for manufacturability analysis and collaboration may not be done.
  3. Overtime is required.  This seems like a no cost option to management, but are your personnel going to sustain this extra effort day in and day out?  What happens when one of the risk contingencies is realized?  Where are the resources to address these issues?

Further project planning often loads people in projects based on 40 hours per week.  Even if this planning excludes holidays and vacation time, do your people perform productive project work 40 hours per week over the course of the year?  What about sick time, administrative time, training, emails, support for issues that arise on past products, etc.?  When you factor in holidays, vacations, sick time, administration time, etc., the effective availability to support projects is typically around 80% of the total time over the course of a year.  Even further, queuing theory indicates that as utilization increases towards 100%, the time to perform tasks in a queue rises asymptotically.

So management, get realistic with your pipeline planning if time-to-market is important to your organization.  Consider realistic planning factors and utilization levels.  Avoid overloading your pipeline.  And use tools like PD-Trak (Home) plan and manage your project pipeline and resources.

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