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For manufacturers, the ability to anticipate and respond to consumer demand in a timely manner is paramount. The ability to improve time to market for manufactured products should be a high priority for any manufacturer. Yet knowing the importance of the time-to-market variable isn’t the same as understanding how to actually achieve this desirable outcome.
To compete with agile and innovative producers competing for market share in the global economy, successful manufacturers follow a formula or pattern of strategies to speed up their marketing processes, business functions, market research, delivery times, etc. Cutting the time requirement for each phase adds up to more streamlined manufacturing and highly successful market response.
Time to market, or TTM, is simply the time required to bring a product from innovation to market availability. The total time from the initial concept through the manufacturing stage to offering the product for sale constitutes TTM. Focusing on this metric in both the new product development and new product introduction phases is crucial to the success of making consumer products.
Mastering this metric allows the company to enjoy the all-important first-mover advantage. They have more opportunity to capitalize on market demand and sell more of the product before its obsolescence. There is also a cumulative momentum effect, as each timely response lends to the company’s relevance and reputation as an innovator. Each well-timed new release, in turn, will be perceived as “hot” or timely.
Leveraging strategies to improve time to market is therefore highly advantageous. Reducing product delays means reducing the potential for limiting the intended customer base and pricing. This in turn maximizes yield for the product. As such, it is wise to follow one or more of the following strategies to improve time to market for each product line and at each phase of the process.
Automation in manufacturing is a significant efficiency multiplier. Many if not most labor-intensive tasks can be automated, thus reducing the potential for human error and inefficiency. Automation also reduces miscommunication, missed deadlines, and workflow inefficiencies.
Going lean is becoming a trend in US factories. This system of manufacturing is founded in minimalist Japanese philosophy and has been popular in Asia and Europe for decades. Focusing on system-wide efficiency, lean manufacturing can improve time to market by harmonizing and balancing processes to complement one another as a whole, reducing waste and non-value-added activity.
There are significant levels of data required throughout the development and marketing phases of any product launch. Because there is such potential for delays, communication efficiency is vital. Integration provides the strategy for keeping team members all on the same page – literally. All project communications and data should be stored in a single file across all teams and departments. Ease of access will translate into shortened TTM overall.
Manufacturers can greatly multiply their capacity for manufacturing output by outsourcing – whether through contract manufacturing, shelter manufacturing in a foreign country, or even by outsourcing repetitive business processes. These different teams, working simultaneously can achieve so much more than your single operation in the same amount of time.
A strategic approach to improve time to market requires re-evaluating your workflow schedules and predictability. To lend speed and efficiency to each task and process, consult previous workflows to establish patterns and set benchmarks. Identify areas in need of improving. Set progress expectations and metrics to establish a predictable workflow schedule. This consistency can then be further streamlined for greater efficiency and ongoing opportunities to improve time to market.