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Four Smart Product Challenges That Lead to Recalls (and How to Fix Them)

Earlier this year on an Innovation+Talks’ podcast episode, Sopheon executive Huub Rutten, VP R&D, revealed that one of the most common and disruptive issues companies face when launching new connected products that leverage IoT technology is recalls.

Recalls are not only costly in financial terms; they can torpedo a brand’s reputation quickly and permanently if not handled correctly. What if smart product manufacturers could avoid the cost and damage of recalls through better innovation governance?

Challenge #1: Process Integration

Today’s manufacturers struggle to integrate all of the timelines, requirements, agreements and methodologies required for successful smart product development. Disconnection here can result in costly re-launches, quality control problems, lost market share and lost shelf space, all of which impact KPIs.

Part of the challenge in quality assurance is the need to proactively coordinate all functions and disciplines to work together with a common direction and innovation management schema. Another challenge is to ensure buy-in from each discipline; companies must commit at every level to develop smart products.

Solution: Orchestrate smart product realization functions to work in harmony by giving everyone a clear view of the process.

Challenge #2: Balanced Decision-Making

Decades ago, before the advent of IoT products, engineers controlled to a large extent which products were brought to market. This approach may not reflect the needs of IoT innovation, as it does not reflect the important roles of manufacturing, software development and third-party vendors in determining product reliability.

Manufacturing plays a critical role in ensuring quality for a finished product. If plants don't agree up front that they will help to launch a new product on a given date that is important for the company, they simply won't make the room in their plan to do the necessary tests and product trials.

Solution: Distribute decision-making across the entire innovation chain, including but not limited to manufacturing and/or engineering.

Challenge #3: Methodology Shifts

Technology is another source of potential quality assurance problems, as software, hardware and connectivity teams often use different methods of working – such as Agile, Stage-Gate®, Scrum and Waterfall. The ability for different teams to deliver products and features on time and on budget is often compromised due to miscommunication or misunderstandings. This can lead to quality assurance issues as products are rushed to market without proper testing or resource planning.

Rather than sticking to a rigid methodology, a strong system of governance is needed for smart product realization; that means putting a method of accountability, structure and best-practice mandates in place throughout the innovation process. This allows smart product realization teams to engage manufacturing and product and feature engineers, integrating them into the innovation process as early as possible and in a collaborative fashion to ensure product quality.

Solution: Allow each functional group to use their own tried and tested methodologies while harmonizing deadlines, assumptions, agreements, outputs and KPIs.

Challenge #4: Ineffective Innovation Governance

Successful governance involves mapping KPIs to the resource capacities available for smart product realization. With this, the entire management hierarchy – down to the disciplinary level – can create a development roadmap that product, brand, finance, technology, vendors, and manufacturing can commit to delivering. This can dictate the success or failure of a smart product, as development timelines vary for each of its components.

Commitment is the key to good governance, and each step of the product realization process requires it in order to deliver a quality product. Agreement and transparency on budgets, features, deadlines, and goals is essential and there is very little room for error in today’s competitive smart products market.

Solution: Put an effective process of accountability in place at every stage of the product realization process.

Bringing a poor-quality product to market is incredibly damaging to a company’s reputation. A smart governance process and a clear view of the entire innovation chain can prevent a potential disaster.

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