By: Kathy Kent Toney, President of Kent Business Solutions
In our post-pandemic business environment, how do manufacturers not just survive but thrive? With tight budgets, how do they also develop innovative products and get them to market more quickly?
All manufacturing product managers need to know the one thing that's the answer to both questions! In a nutshell, it's Scrum. And I’m not talking about a rugby move. It's a whole different animal, so let's define it concerning product development:
It's a process framework for developing products, all the way from envisioning the product to its completion. To put it simply, cross-functional team members come together to create products in an iterative flow that solves problems in real-time.
Benefits of Scrum
There are lots of reasons why manufacturers can reap benefits from Scrum. Here are a few worth mentioning:
Scrum for Hardware
Scrum has historically been used for software development. To a lesser degree, it's been used on manufactured goods, such as cars, computer hardware, and aerospace products. However, it's not common for Scrum usage on manufactured goods, aka Scrum for Hardware. A genuine need exists (how many manufacturers don't want to accelerate the speed-to-market for their products?)!
With the lack of established precedent, how does one go about implementing Scrum for manufactured goods? I had the same question and therefore began work on an answer.
Schier Products in Edwardsville, KS, wanted to do what we're talking about: implement a Scrum strategy for product development purposes. Their existing stage-gate process was inefficient and ineffective; their last new product development effort required two to three years to complete! Schier’s goal was to speed up their development timelines. I partnered with them to do just that.
Adapting Scrum to Hardware
Although my knowledge of Scrum is extensive, I had never before applied Scrum principles to manufactured goods, so there was a short period of trial and error. Hardware is different from software in many ways, so it took some adaptation and ingenuity to make Scrum work for them.
The result has been fantastic! It required two months to develop and implement the process, and it took only ten months to launch their newest product. Not only that, the flexible nature of Scrum allowed them to develop five additional modular subsystems that fit across their whole product line. If you include that accomplishment into the mix, that’s a +100% increase in speed-to-market! That is a whole lot better than two-to-three years!
As evidenced by Schier's success, Scrum is a robust solution for increasing speed-to-market timelines for manufactured goods. They are so thrilled with Scrum; they plan to implement it enterprise-wide!
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How is your product development process working for you? If it could use some sprucing up, then download my free Product Development Checklist. It will provide you some structure and potential improvements to your existing process.
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Kathy Kent Toney
I'm passionate about helping organizations grow profitably in ways they haven't imagined!