It is advisable – especially for capital-intensive companies – to implement new and innovative product development methods today in order to ensure future viability and competitiveness. Nevertheless, such businesses very rarely adapt their development processes and business models to suit the specific maturity of their products and the value these offer customers. At the same time, new competitors and new technologies increasingly put more pressure on businesses to modify or redevelop their industrial products at an ever faster rate while making them more affordable. For precisely this type of situation, Ingenics now offers an implementation-oriented approach to lean innovation for greater value creation that can also be used for the development of industrial products starting today.
“Lean innovation is an important aspect of the holistic competitive product development service offered by Ingenics,” explains Alexandre Zisa, Director Ingenics France. “Essentially our approach to lean innovation consists of three core principles, all of which are intertwined: using agile methods in the development of industrial products, raising the appreciation of the role of product management in companies, and reducing uncertainty about the achievement of objectives.”
Using agile methods in the development of industrial products
Most companies rely on complete, prevalidated specification sheets when it comes to product development. Lean innovation, in contrast, uses agile methods.* This means that products are modified and/or redeveloped on an open-ended basis following repeated rounds of product and competitor analysis. In line with a product-oriented company culture, all of the relevant departments and suppliers are involved in every step of the production and development process from the outset. This applies in particular to the issue of cost.
“For the team, each cycle means learning from the previous step, improving and fine-tuning the solution. The smaller the steps, the lower the risk aversion, and the greater the innovations that can ultimately be introduced,” notes Zisa. One of the key challenges for the Ingenics experts is therefore to define the smallest steps for industrial products that can be implemented and those that are economically viable with respect to the associated investment and nonrecurring costs.
Raising appreciation of the role of product management in companies
Lean innovation also places completely new demands on product management. For instance, product managers in each company will have to act as all-rounders, coordinating and moderating product development across different teams, departments, and organizational hierarchies. They therefore need to understand everything about the product – both technically and commercially – and they require a high level of expertise in strategy and communication. Depending on previous qualifications, the professional support provided by Ingenics experts may range from intensive interim management and project management to individual training with follow-up coaching.
Reducing uncertainty about the achievement of objectives
Since lean innovation does not dictate product development solutions from the outset, there may be repeated instances of uncertainty about the achievement of objectives throughout the course of a project. There are often critical questions to ask, especially in the early stages. It is therefore crucial to proceed with confidence and structure from day one, never losing sight of the customer and the costs, and defining the final solution as late as possible. The key to success here is the shortest possible iteration time. On one hand, Ingenics experts ensure that true innovation comes from the project teams of the respective customer. On the other hand, they support, structure, prioritize, and moderate the entire development process and actively promote every aspect of project management.
“In essence, lean innovation is not about constantly adding new features and functions, but accepting that while an approach may not take you directly to your goal, the added value of the product is further improved at every stage. In principle, it is a little like a pencil sketch that gradually evolves into a definite picture, and finally a photo,” says Zisa. When it is individually tailored to the specific needs and requirements of the customer, the lean innovation approach can create extra added value while facilitating innovative product development in any sector of industry. Of course, customers for such projects still benefit from the many years of expertise offered by Ingenics experts in a wide range of industries, markets, and technologies. There is also an international network encompassing all kinds of organizations from universities and start-ups to large companies, guaranteeing that Ingenics remains fully up to date – from the initial analysis to the final implementation.
* The method theory originally developed for software applications is not explained here. Further information can be found in a wide range of books, training courses, and online. The basic principles are outlined here: http://agilemanifesto.org/.