New product development process
As you might already know, the main business of Hydroline is manufacturing of hydraulic cylinders. One huge part of that is the development of new products and their ramp up at our both factories. As we continuously strive towards growth, we need to be able to serve our new customers efficiently by offering them a well-planned process which enables us to quickly start producing their cylinders in series. As the technology, customer requirements and economics evolve, we need to stay up with them and also meet our current customers’ needs by constantly developing our product base and replace outdated products with new ones.
Our NPD process, as in New Product Development process stands for a process for a product that has never been manufactured before at our factory and is now coming to series production. Sometimes new products are designed when a customer starts manufacturing a completely new machine to which they then need a new cylinder or multiple new cylinders. Of course, all products from a new customer go through the same process as well. In case the customer has changed Hydroline as their hydraulic cylinder supplier, we ensure the manufacturing process for the needed cylinder models by following the steps at our NPD process.
Usually when multiple new cylinders which transform a complete cylinder family are needed, we handle the whole process as a whole. As the similar kind of cylinders are divided into groups or product families, they are easier to put a focus on and to make the whole process more efficient. Usually the same size classes are in the same group which eases the management of the whole.
The process itself has been designed in a way that each new product goes through the same steps. The NPD process team is formed of professionals from various departments of our organization: sales, production, sourcing, design and quality. This one big team makes sure that each step of the process is carefully made step by step and each necessary thing is taken into consideration during the process. One big part is also to make sure that once the new products go into series production, there won’t be any surprising issues and the manufacturing process runs smoothly in the future. The follow-up meetings for NPD process are held weekly, however, the work itself is a daily task. At Hydroline, hundreds of new products go through the same process annually.
As we have two factories in two countries, the place of manufacturing is mainly decided based on the volume of the product. In Poland we focus on high volume and low mix production whereas in Finland we focus on the more complex products with high mix and low volume production. The NPD process itself is same in both factories but it is controlled from Finland.
What is the process like? Here are presented the main tasks in the process.
- At the beginning, our design team is responsible for ensuring that we have all the necessary information for manufacturing the products. In case we receive customers’ own drawings of the cylinders, we might sometimes ask to make some modifications or requests for the drawings in order for the products to be manufactured better; this is a discussion between our and the customers’ design team. In case we are able to find ways to save come costs for the final product, our sales and design teams discuss with the customers’ sourcing and design teams. Usually it is the design team that suggests possible changes and presents them to the customer. We strive to an effective communication with each team every step of the way in order to avoid any misunderstandings or pitfalls during the process.
- As the design, materials and price has been approved, our engineering department starts making the more specific plans for production. They make sure we have all the needed tools are available at our factory. For example, we need to be sure we have the right kind of tools and expertise for machining. Sometimes we need to write down new instructions in case some part of the manufacturing process is done in a completely new way. Our production needs to know just in what way the new products are required to be manufactured. Our engineering department also designs the production flow and phasing for the production for each product. They ensure that the new products go through our production in a right way.
- Order desk takes care of planning the production. They make sure the needed capacity is available and schedules the production process accordingly. Our order desk handles all our orders and communicates with our customers about the timetable of new products.
- After the production has been planned, our purchase team starts purchasing the needed materials. This might be done earlier too in case the new product requires components with long delivery time (such as sensors, certain materials or specific valves). Our sourcing department defines the sourcing channels for each component according to which our purchase team does the actual material acquisition. Our purchase team also takes care that the needed materials and components arrive in time and the work does not get delayed.
- Our quality team plays a big part during the whole process. They take care of the quality documentation and make sure we deliver products that meet the customer requirements. Our quality team ensures a few basic things: 1) Following the production flow: what manufacturing steps are required for manufacturing. 2) Draws a failure mode and effect analysis (FMEA): what kind of risks are involved in manufacturing this product and how should these risks be controlled. 3) With FMEA our quality team targets to minimizing risks in every step during the production
Also, our quality team views if there are any generic things to pay attention to or change. The working instructions might need to be modified according to the control plan, for example, new instructions for risky or extra procedures might need to be made. This could be something like a specific sensor instalment or an additional testing of a valve.
Our quality team also creates the measuring documentation templates, measures supplier components, goes through the measurement protocols to ensure the supplier components are according to specifications and also carries out control tests. All quality documentation is complied together and it is delivered for the customer together with a sample product of the new cylinder model.
In case our customer is willing to do a process audit, they are more than welcome to come and follow the whole production process at our factory. We want our customers to be satisfied with our processes and show them that everything is done according to their requirements. For example, when it comes to specific welding instructions, we want our customers to know that we do things the way it has been agreed on.
We continuously improve our processes and make sure we have the sufficient resources because the NPD process is one the most important processes in terms of growth. We want to develop all steps on the way and we aim to create a World class process which works flawlessly and in a standardized way.