Launching a program, no matter the industry, is a difficult feat. There are many variables that go into a program launch and many things that need go right, so it’s critical for the various parties involved to work together.
In reality, the actual launch itself is infrequently an issue because, let’s be serious, it’s very rare for a program to halt a launch. There are always deviations or streamlined processes that allow for a program to launch. However, the issue lies with how efficiently the program is launched.
We’ve worked on several programs in the past, and through many lessons learned, identified a few methods and processes, that when implemented or performed properly, will lead to a successful program launch.
Many different pressures including program timing, complexity, design changes, communication, process flow, etc., make launching a new program challenging and proves to be difficult for numerous organizations. Difficulties may appear in various forms such as:
- Improper involvement among the right departments/teams
- Lack of proper communication and insufficient sharing tools
- Unclear team leads and lack of accountability
- A non-functioning or owner-less Bill of Material (BOM)
- No change management system
- Improper part kickoff
Other types of problems are encountered when launching a program, but those difficulties always seem be culprits for companies.
Before tackling any program, be sure that you and your team understand the most appropriate method for your program launch. Below are 7 tips to follow for a successful program launch.
7 Tips for a Successful Program Launch
1. Team Involvement
All parties (Design, Engineering, Purchasing, Quality, Operations, etc.) must be involved from the beginning, in any program. It’s also critical to involve the Supply Chain team as early in the design process as possible to weigh in on optimization ideas, reduced-cost ideas, or preferred suppliers. Early Supply Chain team involvement will ensure early supplier involvement, which will lead to proper supply partner kickoff, development, and maintenance throughout the program launch process.
2. Sharing Resources, Tools, & Platforms
Automation in today’s world is key for speed and ease. For a successful program launch, enable all parties and team members to access the appropriate resources and tools for communication. This may be a homegrown platform/sharing tool such as Dropbox or SharePoint, or an ERP System, but remember it’s essential that everyone involved in the program has the proper access and permissions to it. If not, there will be miscommunication throughout the process up until the launch.
3. Information Flow & Communication
Similar to making sure the proper tools are in place, the flow of information is a crucial part of the program launch process and will make or break it. Consequently, proper communication and information flows amid all parties is an absolute necessity. For a truly successful program launch, an organization must stress the importance of communication to all team members across the involved departments.
4. Team Leads/Accountability Assignments
Assigning leads and responsibilities to systems and/or parts is a must. It’s the leads’ responsibility to ensure that the proper members of the team are copied and/or involved in any discussion regarding the corresponding system and/or part. This also adds a sense of ownership, accountability, and empowerment that will lead to better overall management practices.
5. BOM Management
There should be one copy of the BOM, with one owner. There may be multiple people who can edit it, but only at the owner’s discretion and with his or her full awareness. There shouldn’t be any department-wide or team BOMs, as this will only convolute the process. It’s the BOM owner’s responsibility to ensure all members can view the BOM and are updated whenever a change is made. For that, a BOM change log is vital. Automating the BOM is also recommended, as it will limit human error and track all changes.
6. Change Management
In any product/program life cycle, there are usually multiple changes, some programs/products experiencing more than others. These changes can happen throughout the product’s life – from design, to prototype, to launch. Instituting a proper change management process will allow for successful program launch and it goes hand-in-hand with a proper information flow. All parties must effectively communicate when there’s any change relating to the product. This can be anything from a simple ECR Log to a robust change process that describes every detail of the change.
7. Supply Partner Kickoff
Once a custom (or MCOTS, depending on the complexity) part, or group of parts, is kicked off and a PO is issued, a technical review with the supply partner must take place. This will confirm all parties are on the same page and everyone, specifically the supply partner, is working off of the most accurate, up-to-date information.
There are many aspects that organizations and individuals must account for when launching a program, which is why understanding and executing those 7 tips will set your company up for program launch success, in the short and long term. Every program or project has a launch of some sort, so getting the process down to a routine will benefit the entire organization – increasing efficiency while reducing risk, now and in the future.