Electronics (GAPE) to analyze their processes and to come up with a KM improvement plan to shorten their product development lead-time. We took a closer look at the key activities in the product development process and identified critical activities that had most impact on the development lead- time which is the focus for our study. We also got to learn development that did not go as planned as well as getting to know what is working well in product development.
Completing the KM assessment has allowed us to draw the following results: GAPE should focus on Exchange, Combination and Colonization (for both Knowledge Sharing and Discovery). Attention should be given to Routine, Direction, Sterilization and Initialization. The majority of knowledge were captured through formal procedural processes and stored in the Exchange database. But it is not easy for engineers to find them. Knowledge locator may help to solve this problem.
The current KM Infrastructure does not support colonization well enough and does not really exhibit knowledge sharing between development teams. This could improve by setting up community Of practices. The key to success is in getting the product design requirements right the first mime, perform thorough evaluations on all project risks and get the design right the first time. This goes with the reuse of knowledge (I. E. Past product development experiences, standard proven design, lessons learned from the past so that mistakes will not get repeated and the use of best practices).
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This calls for all internal as well as external brains together to approve design before proceeding to the next stage of development.  Company Background Information Gold Peak Industries GAP (Holdings) Limited -the parent company of GAPE- was established in 1964 and it has been in the Stock Exchange of Hong Kong since 984. It is well known by the public for its battery products under the GAP Batteries brand. GAPE is in the design and manufacturing industry specialized in both consumer and professional audio products. Reduces developed range from personal audio system & HI Speakers to professional amplifiers & speakers use in cinemas, stadiums and concerts. Engineers take ideas from product concepts through to mass production, then leave the design in safe hands to their manufacturing colleagues in their Hough production plant. The Center of Engineering Department is located in downtown Sheehan and as over 135 Engineering staff. Located in the same site, there are over 65 staff from various associated activities to support the Engineering needs.
The Engineering Department is organized into 3 main branches: Product Development Operation (65 persons) Technology (35 persons) Engineering Support Services (35 persons) Also the Acoustic Team at Hough factory has 44 persons And at Hong Kong office the RFC Team with 7 engineers. The Department Business Strategy is strong product development with dedicated functional teams - Electronics Teams, Mechanical Teams, Software Teams, DSL Teams, RFC Teams, Quality Assurance Teams, Safety & Environmental Team, Test & Measurement Team, etc.
For further information, please visit our client's websites: Gold Peak Group www. Galloped. Com Electronic Division: www. Gap-industries. Com  Assessment Scope and Objective Assessment Scope : Product Development Product Development is the primary task in the Engineering Department. Therefore, putting forward Product Development as our assessment scope came with no surprise. Assessment Objective : Shorten Product Development Lead-Time There are wow key strategic performances in product development, namely Quality and Time-to-Market.
In order not to make our assessment too broad for this Knowledge Management project, we have chosen the latter as our assessment objective which is also the most important out of the TV'0 for GAPE. By improving Time-to-Market, in product development perspective, we are referring to shortening product development lead-time. The following are advantages from a shorten product development lead-time: Stay competitive in the increasing competition in the worldwide market Avoid back-orders and preventing lost sales. It may also lead to more orders and more sales if development is ahead of schedule. 4] Organization Chart Figure 1: Organization Chart In reference to Figure 1, we have the Department's organization chart. Sitting at the top of the chart, we have the Engineering Director and then branching down to sections Of functional teams. Starting from the left, we have the Product Development Section composed of a team of project managers and 4 Development Teams. Development teams are primarily consisted of Electronics engineers where they are responsible for electronics design and development as well as leading the verbal activities in Product Development.
Next, we have the Mechanical Section consisting of Mechanical engineers. Mechanical Product development team support mechanical related design and development of Product Development. Advance Mechanical section specialized in new design techniques and choice of materials, simulation and other tools that may help development. The Engineering Service Section provides support and services to other sections. It consists of the Safety, Environmental and Material Teams, The Artwork and workshop. Document Control takes care of all documents in & out of Engineering.
The Technology Section consisting of Advance Engineering, Software Team, RFC Team and the DSL Team all working towards the same goal to maintain a competitive edge to compete with the others. These are the lucky group in the department whom will get to learn, design and develop first of the kind in both technologies and products (I . E. Technologies and products that are new to GAPE). Finally we have the Acoustic Team. This Team is responsible for design and development of drivers and speakers. 5] Product Development Process projects are initiated with feasibility and justification with the introduction Of product design specification. In reference to the Product Design Specification Engineer, the engineers will review all past design in the Exchange system with similar specification and review all lessons learned from similar field. The engineers will then work on the initial draft design considering technical risk assessment, BOOM cost, tooling cost, development lead-time and Engineering hours and other investment that go with the project.
Reuse existing design and components where appropriate. Tacit Sharing on design and progress are held on a weekly basis. Only the final sign proposal will be uploaded to their Exchange system when all criteria are met and ready for management approval. Formal procedures (routines) and document format are in place for uploading design document to the Exchange system at the end of each development stage. Design are checked according to design rules and approved by managers before the upload is approved. Please refer to the following figure for the Product Development Process Flow.
Figure 2: Product Development Process The Product Development Process consists of 4 stages - Feasibility, Design & Realization, Industrialization and Mass Production. The items in the middle are key activities that we have identified in the product development process. At the bottom are the outcomes from each of these stages. Below is an explanation Of the activities in each Of the 4 Stages. Feasibility Stage The project typically starts with a set of requirements listing out the required features, the industrial design and the target cost.
The engineers will need to process this information, consider their Use Cases and their User Interface. They will then find out if there are any past projects and designs that can be used to meet some of these requirements. Reusing proven designs will minimize the development lead-time and impose minimal risk to the development. The engineers will then put together a proposal for customer to sign off the project. Often a time the proposal will get adjusted to better match with the end user's needs, cost target of the customer and time to market.
Any new technology, new component needed and any performance specification required beyond those achieved in the past by the department had to be found, evaluated and learned. All risks will need to be assessed before committing to the project. These are conducted in the Technology Scouting & Evaluation activity. Once all risks are assessed and requirements are met per customer wish, Engineer can proceed with the Project planning activity to draw up the development schedule and plan all resources (both man power and equipment) for the development. The concept release will be granted after successfully completing all feasibility activities.
Design and Realization This involves all knowledge from past projects, lessons learned and best practices together to come up with the solution. Design involves electronic circuits, software and mechanical design. Once the design is drawn, the engineers will conduct simulations to predict if the design conformed to performance requirement. Once the design passed simulation test, Engineer will design the circuit on PC. This is the PC Layout Design activity. They will also design a test plan to qualify the design at board level as well as at system level.
The realization is a collection of activities in getting physical samples, build and design tested. These activities are the Prototype Sample Build, the Engineering Sample Build and the Tool Making. Only a few samples (typically 3 sets) will be built during the Prototype stage. The Engineering Sample Build mom after the Prototype Build involving a larger quantity (typically 1 5 sets) and it will have all design improvements in place from the prototype design. Engineer will initiate Tool Making once the mechanical design is mature enough and off-tool parts will be used on the Pilot Build.
The design release is granted only when enough confidence is gained from the design during the Design and Realization stage. The engineers may proceed to the next stage of development after granting Design Release. Industrialization This stage consists of 2 key activities: the Pilot Build and the Pre-production Build. Both builds are conducted on the production floor with production flow, processes and test fixtures specifically designed for the product. The design for Manufacturing issues and Standard Operating Procedure gets verified and optimized on the Pre-production Build prior to Mass Production.
The build quantity is considerably larger than previous builds. These processes are also very valuable in verifying design tolerances and production process variations. Mass production At this stage, all design and production processes would have been fully verified and qualified for production in huge quantities. Product Development Process Flow will come to an end after executing the first production lot. The engineers will then leave the design, repair and product know to their Manufacturing Engineers whom will have full responsibility of the product from there onward. 6] Learning from Past Product Developments Let's take a closer look on past product development and see if we find opportunities to shorten the development lead-time if we had been given another chance to do it again. We have reviewed 10 products developed in the past 12 months. We have observed there was no hold up on schedule urine the Industrialization Stage and the Mass Production Stage. The following activities typically are more procedural and time controlled and they did not show sign to have impact on the lead-time: Project Planning, Simulations, PC Layout, Test Plan, Prototype Build, Engineering Sample Build and Tool Making.
We found issues that lead to a longer lead-time fall into the following categories: Technology Scouting and Evaluation Example: Risks are not thoroughly understood before committing to development. One of the projects had its USB Audio with intermittent audio while operating from Windows XP. This intermittent problem was unknown until the team got to the evaluation stage on the first prototype sample. The problem resides in the software driver design where the solution provider could not solve in a short time and the team has no access to the driver codes to solve it.
The team had to find an alternative USB Audio solution to continue the development. This had resulted in a time loss of 2 months. Circuit, Software & Mechanical Design a) Example 1: Design from scratch where they could have reused an existing proven solution. We have identified one Of the project where the engineers ad designed an all new amplifier from scratch where they could have simply reuse design from a past project. This new amplifier had no performance, cost, weight or size advantage over the existing design.
The reason for designing the new amplifier was because the team of engineers was not aware that there was an equivalent amplifier design which they could have just copied. This has resulted in a time loss of 1 month and also in a waste of engineering effort. B) Example 2: Repeating problems that had been encountered and solved by another team in past developments.  Critical Activities Figure 3: Critical Activities in the Product Development Process After understanding what went on with past product developments, we have concluded that some Of the activities are less critical to our assessment objective.
In reference to Figure 3, these non-critical activities are highlighted in grey colored text. Activities remained in black color text are areas we have targeted to focus our study to improve their efficiency and effectiveness in order to shorten the overall development lead-time. [8) KM Assessment [8. 1] Desire KM processes We have mapped out contingency factors to each of the 2 critical sub- recesses to determine their desired KM processes.
These contingency factors come from informal interviews conducted with various experienced Engineers working on product development in the department. These factors reflected how they overall judge each of these activities based on their participation in current and past product developments. Figure 4: Chart to determine desire KM Processes Major Processes Us b-processes Task Characteristics Knowledge Characteristics Organizational Characteristics Environmental Uncertainty Desired KM Process(SE) Uncertainty Interdependent
TIE DIP Size Strategy Feasibility Technology scouting & Evaluation Medium High D Combination Colonization for knowledge Discovery Design Circuit , Software , Mechanical Low Exchange Colonization for knowledge sharing Projects handle by the department vary considerably in complexity ranging from a simple audio docking system to a complex Audio Visual Receiver involving complex DSL processing. By averaging out these extremes, we have decided to weight Task Uncertainty as "Medium" for both sub-processes. This weighting is more representative of the real situations.
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