More R&D or just more processes?

Innovation is Changing Pre-Product Development R&D [Machine Design – September 5, 2013], discusses the some of the changes that are occurring in advanced research and development stemming from industry’s decade-long focus on innovation.

Our 2008 North American study on Organic Innovation indicated that industry leaders and early adopters were actively focusing on improving pre-product development activities. Our 2013 study more deeply investigated these findings.  We focused on the types, purposes, usage, and changing importance of research, advanced development, and product development processes.  Two-hundred companies from the USA, Canada, and Mexico participated in numbers that represent the relative R&D spending of the North American countries.  The findings discussed here emanate from participant responses on their approaches to Organic Innovation, one of the five topic areas in our research.

The 2013 findings affirm a ten year trend.  Most companies now have multiple, approaching “numerous,” specifically-purposed processes.  Design engineers, program managers, and organizational leaders are likely seeing an increase in the processes used to guide research and/or product development on a wide scale. There is a new wave of them the past five to ten years years.  This is spurred by the need for western companies to improve their overall innovation levels, and their consistency of execution to these higher levels, to improve their global competitive position. These new processes are starting to enter the second quartile of industry penetration. Processes that precede product development are increasing notably. The number of variations and flavors of “mainstream” product development processes are also increasing, but at a lesser rate.

For pre-product development processes, the change is pronounced. Over the past five years, there has been a tripling in formal Basic Research processes and a near quadrupling of formal Applied Research processes. Advanced Development processes have risen 30%. A number of companies have “combination processes” used across several categories and those numbers have also risen.

The change is not as pronounced for Product Development processes. In 2008, 76% of companies had one or two processes to guide development projects. Forty percent of companies used one process and 36% used two. This year, companies running with a single process decreased to 35% as companies added more processes. Most notably, the number of North American companies using four or more processes nearly doubled.

More R&D or just more processes? [Machine Design – December 12, 2013], shares additional findings from the 2013 initiative and offers insight as to what is happening on a macro scale to industry’s next generation set of product development and innovation processes.

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