Research & Development is one of the most complex and cost-intensive corporate functions. This is due to direct development costs, opportunity costs from undesirable developments and delays in time-to-market, as well as high uncertainty and networking. At the same time, R&D is characterized by inflexible personnel structures that prevent rapid capacity adjustment to volatile market conditions. Lean development helps R&D teams develop their potential by consistently focusing on value-adding activities and efficient communication processes.
However, it is important to adapt some of the premises of lean methods originating from manufacturing. This relates in particular to the characteristics of value and waste and the flow of information in development processes. Thus, development activities are generally distinguished by the fact that there is high level of uncertainty about customer requirements and technical solutions. In R&D, taking the wrong approach when seeking a solution is not seen as waste like it is in the sense of lean operations: It is an inextricable part of the development process and requires a different perspective. At the same time, R&D functional units move in complex, poorly structured information networks, in which several simultaneous projects can overlap. The key challenge for lean development is therefore to build process architectures and control systems, that allow a short lead time, efficient circulation and use of knowledge and also increase development quality.
ROI designs and implements lean development programmes that allow a holistic optimisation of the areas strategy, products, processes, projects, organisation and culture in the context of R&D activities. In particular, we rely on risk-dependent design and time-oriented control of development processes.
Within the framework of the risk-dependent design of development processes, it is necessary to define the maximum effective handling of uncertainty with regard to customer requirements and technical solutions. A modular concept for the product development process is especially important, as are process elements which allow cost-effective early learning (fast feedback). These include, for example, short ‘build-measure-learn’ cycles and ‘minimum viable products’, a risk-dependent resource use, reducing the flexibility costs (e.g. by using 3D printing) and self-organising structures. ROI makes use of the following tools:
- Agile approaches to product development
- Spiral process structures
- Front loading (e.g. set-based engineering)
- Scheduled synchronisation points and permeable gates
- Systematic configuration management for concept and validation
In lead time-oriented management of development activities, the opportunity costs from a delayed market introduction need to be quantified and used for project control. The networked character of the projects requires specific management approaches. ROI supports companies in the following ways:
- Active queue management
- Reduction of batch sizes
- Prioritisation rules (cost of delay)
- Time slicing
- Agile management methods
- Frozen zones
- Shop floor management and autonomous sub-teams
- Visualisation in ‘Obeyas’