Archive for category Automotive
I’ve received a lot of requests to post my lecture slides from UW students that were at my lecture on New Product Development and attendees who saw my Keynote address on “Leading with Creativity and Innovation” at the EDI 2nd Annual Leadership Conference in late January. Since my slide deck uses almost no text and is heavy with imagery, posting the full deck will be of little value. So instead, I’m going to break up the lectures into a series of blog posts. Across this series, I’ll talk about Product Planning and Product Management, and the New Product Development (NPD) process, all from my perspective of having worked in NPD for around 15 years in several industries, including Automotive, Consumer Package Goods (CPG), Technology, and Videogames and Entertainment.
I’ll start off by visually showing the progression of my career in the NPD process. The major stages of new product development can be seen in the image below, courtesy of Detra Montoya, Professor of Marketing at the University of Washington. She uses this chart during her Marketing 301 course, so I like to leverage it when I give my NPD lecture to UW students so they can see the practical, real-world applications of their course material.
It’s important to note that the above general stages of the NPD process are specific to a product, and not the overall product roadmapping process or Product Management/Product Planning function. The above assumes that the overall product strategy and roadmap have already been developed, and one is now ready to begin developing new products with clearly established goals/markets/segments, etc. Additionally, depending on the company, industry, and sometimes even the product, the stages may be in a different order, or even parallel instead of sequential. For example, I prefer to do a preliminary business analysis before any concept development/testing, and then a more thorough business analysis before going into development.
As a Design Engineer at Honda R&D (Ohio, USA) and Porsche AG (Stuttgart, Germany), my primary focus was Product Development. That is, taking the final concept and engineering a solution (in my case, for the Body Design) to make the concept a reality.
It’s also important to note here that within the Product Development stage you see above, there is also concept development and testing that is necessary to ensure the engineering solutions meet the goals and intent of the product. The Concept Development and Testing stage shown in the figure refers mainly to the various solutions available for a particular consumer need or product goal, and market testing those different solutions/concepts with the appropriate consumers to whittle the field down to one direction. Some product testing (vs. consumer testing) also takes place (i.e. in the automotive world, aerodynamic testing would be done on several of the initial clay concepts to narrow the field). Once one of those concepts is selected for product development, additional concept development and testing occur to meet the defined product goals. Using another automotive example, mounting internal panels could be accomplished through fasteners, plastic tabs, adhesives, etc., which could all be developed and tested to find the best method to meet the selected concept direction.
After receiving my MBA at UC Berkeley, I switched from automotive design engineering to marketing, specifically in Brand Management with P&G. At the time, I was hired to focus on the U.S. Hispanic Market, which was done out of San Juan, Puerto Rico, with my brands being Gain detergent and Downy fabric softener. In this brand management role, my responsibilities expanded over a broader range of the NPD process as shown below, with primary focus on go-to-market (GTM) strategies.
Since joining Microsoft over six years ago and working as the Global Product Manager / Product Planner for Xbox hardware, my primary focus has shifted to the front end, but still encompasses an even greater portion of the NPD process. That is due to the difference in the NPD process between a typical CPG company (P&G, Colgate-Palmolive, Unilever, etc.), and most technology and consumer electronics companies. A typical CPG brand manager will own one or two products through the entire product life cycle (from ideation to end-of-life or EOL). At Microsoft, products get handed off depending on its stage in the product life cycle. Product Planners and Product Managers focus on the front end, from ideation to product development. Product Marketers will focus on the commercialization and GTM strategies once the product is fully defined. The advantage of this format in my current role is that I have worked on the front end of nearly every hardware product launched for the Xbox 360 (over 40 shipped products in total). The skills needed to ideate a new product can be quite different from the skills needed to take a pre-defined product to market, so this enables the Product Managers and Product Marketers to leverage these skills across a broader array of products.
That concludes this segment on my NPD series. In future segments I’ll elaborate on how to get to the stage of idea generation and give some case studies on prior work.
First I get a tweet from a current member of the Cooper Union Motorsports team the same day I find my old presentation slides from my senior project in 1994. A week later I find the negatives for the pictures taken during the 1994 SAE Mini Baja East competition AND an old school newsletter with details about the competition. Uncanny. Seems like the story wants to be told 🙂
In my previous posting on the Mini Baja competition, I described the design and construction of the “dune buggy” for my Mechanical Engineering senior design project. Now that I found the pictures of the actual competition, I’ll talk separately about the actual competition weekend.
It came down to the wire, but on May 26, 1994, I rented a Ryder truck and packed up the official Cooper Union Mini Baja vehicle in the back, along with the few tools and equipment we had. George was going to join us in Canada, but his mother didn’t want him driving the whole way up there, so she bought him a plane ticket. She was also nice enough to by my younger brother, Jiovanie, a ticket as well, since this now meant that I had to drive the whole way on my own. My college girlfriend joined in the trip, so Abdel volunteered to be buckled into the Baja vehicle for the long journey up to Montreal. At Canadian customs, the officer asked me if I had anything to declare. I told him that I had a friend strapped down in the back of the truck. He just waved me through, and that was officially my first time out of the country (of course, Puerto Rico doesn’t count since it’s a US Commonwealth).
We realized that we were small fish immediately upon arriving at the event in Quebec. While it was just the four of us there (me, Jiovanie, Abdel, and George), many of the other teams were twenty students strong (or greater), had custom trailers, and a list of sponsors that would make NASCAR drivers envious. I heard talk of $20,000 budgets, an order of magnitude greater than what I had to work with. I still remember the first time we pulled the Mini-Baja out of the trailer. Across from us was a team from Stonybrook (if I recall correctly). They had a ramp for their car and 4-6 people to push the vehicle out of the trailer. My friend Abby and I watched them unload. When they were done, we each grabbed an end and lifted our car out of the U-Haul truck and plopped it onto the ground. The team across the way were completely amazed at how light our vehicle was. I guess it was a good thing that the budget was so scarce – it helped to build a bare-bones vehicle. I ended up working with one of those guys from Stonybrook at Honda R&D in Ohio just a year later.
Before any racing could take place, we had to go through a whole series of design and safety inspections. We pretty much nailed the safety inspections with the exception of the rear propeller guard. I had a just put a temporary makeshift chicken-wire cage around the propeller, but it didn’t meet safety requirements. Jiovanie set about modifying and building a custom cage for the propeller that was more structurally sound and helped us pass the inspection. The safety/design judge was nice enough to give us some pointers, given that this was our first time in an SAE competition. His first comment was that the front wheels were too small (something I was completely aware of, but decided to go with the left over wheels from the previous attempt to save money).
We had a tough time with our engine throughout the first day. We were only able to enter two of the driving events. We had to call over one of the Briggs and Stratton representatives to check out our engine for us. This was the engine that was delivered the previous year and was not opened or used until this event. After inspecting the engine, the Briggs and Stratton representatives told us we had a defective engine and they would get us a replacement. Unfortunately, the vehicle wasn’t really designed for a quick engine replacement, so we had to withdraw from the rest of the events, including the all day endurance race the next day. It was pretty ironic that the one part of the vehicle that we didn’t design or build and that we weren’t allowed to modify was the thing that kept us from competing fully in the event. In the end, we ended up placing 39th out of 55 registered teams. This was thanks to the two events in which we were able to compete and my design report.
While we didn’t place anywhere near the top, at least we weren’t in last place, and we were the smallest team that I saw at the event. We did have a load of fun at the event, and after it was all over, we all went horseback riding to blow off steam. The following year, as a graduate student at Cooper, we had two teams enter the competition, and I served as an advisor. This event was directly responsible for my first career after getting my Mechanical Engineering degree from Cooper Union – an Automotive Body Design Engineer for Honda R&D near Columbus, Ohio. I also later went on to serve as the Chair of the 1997 SAE Midwest Mini Baja Competition held in Ohio.