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Project Management-New Product Planning and Launch

One of the hardest challenges any manufacturing company faces is coordinating new projects in an organized and interactive manner. It is inevitable that unique challenges will arise whenever a new project is started. With a lot at stake, such as producing parts with consistently high quality standards, meeting deadlines agreed upon to customers, and managing necessities throughout the supply chain, it is vital to have an efficient process for planning and launching new projects. Accommodating for some of these first-hand challenges we have experienced, we have developed a flexible, simplistic, and collaborative process for ensuring success in new product launches. Through our two-step process, we are able to keep all project personnel up-to-date and informed, leading to timely delivers with exceptional quality and outstanding customer service.

The first step in our process is deemed “the red folder” stage. This step is initiated by a new order from the customer. The red color of the folder signifies that we are still in a holding stage and production is still not ready to begin. Before production can take place, each supervisor that is involved in the new project production, whether it be quality control, operational setup, or customer service, will receive a red folder with the project specifics. Information such as cycle times, prints, and other key information will be included for the review of each supervisor. Before production can be determined to begin, each supervisor must sign off that the project is producible and signal any difficulties they believe will arise. These difficulties will be addressed by our management team before transitioning to the actual order entry stage.  

Utilizing the red folder stage allows us to address many of our previous difficulties experienced through initial product planning and launch. For example, this phase enables us to inform all project personnel, at the same time, the progress of the project. Keeping everyone on the same page and timeline allows for a complete and realistic idea of the future difficulties the project will produce and encourages collaboration between supervisors. Also, we are able to be more flexible and adaptable throughout the launch process. A quote is simply an estimate, so when an order comes in, we must verify the information provided at that time to ensure it the project is still within the scope and perimeters we originally specified. To account for this, the red folder allows all involved a chance to review the project again before signing off on their ability to produce the part.

After the completion and collection of the red folders, all concerns voiced by the supervisors are addressed with the customer via our management team. If our team is able to successfully address all concerns with the customer and produce the proper solutions needed for both parties, the project enters the latter half of our process, which we deem the “green folder stage.” The green symbolizes to our employees that the project is active and move into actual production.  Once the order is entered into our system, a confirmation is generated, and the job scheduled, we create a green folder containing a checklist of tooling requirements and lead times, material needed to run the job, machine availability, and available personnel. Also found in the green folder is a resolution log that shows what concerns, if any, supervisors had in the red folder stage and the resolution of these concerns. Upon receiving the green folder, department leaders can begin ordering the necessary items for the production of the project.

Developing a green folder stage has allowed us to proficiently manage supply chains and scheduling needs that arise when launching a new project. The adoption of the green folder has allowed our company to coordinate our supply chain more efficiently, resulting in benefits such as the elimination of unnecessary tooling orders and better awareness of material, tooling, and outside service lead times. Aside from the added ability to better manage third parties of the project, the green folder step helps our production scheduling process. Our schedulers no longer have to guess or assume if and when a project is active. Now they know for certain that the project is a go when they receive a green folder. This helps produce a more reliable production schedule for all to utilize.

The indoctrination of our two step new product planning and launch method has allowed our team to coordinate, plan, and carry out new projects more effectively than ever before. By collaborating as a team more often and becoming more adaptable through the planning and launch phase, we are better able to serve our customers in a timelier manner. Adding this process to our new projects planning and launch phases has significantly decreased our lead times and has increased our customer service, as well as brought about increased shop efficiencies.

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