Flexible circuits promise IOT rewards……….#innovation

flex circuitCambridge start up Pragmatic I.C has received over 5 million GBP in funding from Cambridge Innovation Capital, ARM plc & others to develop flexible micro-circuits which may be used to embed computing power in everyday objects and bring on the Internet Of Things revolution.

The firm, whose circuits are ‘thinner than a human hair’ is already making prototype devices in its Cambridge facility & reckons its processes are scalable for mass production.

The ability to embed complex circuits in everyday objects which are not flat like clothing, automotive trim, airplane bodies & household items offers tremendous potential for the development of intelligent ‘things’.

Flexible circuits, in themselves, are nothing new in the world of Microelectronics, I remember working on printed plastic circuits 30 years ago at General Hybrid Ltd in Jarrow before the company was unfortunately declared bankrupt.

Potential problems with flexible circuits tend to revolve around component stability & reliability; hopefully PragmaticIC have this covered & they will go on to have tremendous success, having the backing of ARM plc, the U.K’s most successful ‘modern’  electronics company  is a terrific bonus & their Innovation is to be admired.



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Candid Camera………….#pmot #innovation

1st digital camera

1st Digital Camera

The recent news that Eastman-Kodak had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy created much derision around the fact that Kodak invented the digital camera back in 1975 but failed to exploit this achievement.

Of course hindsight is a wonderful thing & perhaps we should consider that back in 1975 Kodak had 90% market share of the conventional film market & the vast expansion of digital technology was difficult if not impossible to predict. In 1975 only a handful of hobbyists had a computer at home & most of these were incapable of displaying a decent colour image.

Innovation isn’t easy. Companies have to decide very carefully what to invest in & can spend many millions backing the wrong “horse”

One way to make this process easier is to capture the “Voice of the Customer” by carrying out carefully worded customer surveys, engaging the customer in online conversations via Social Media, having effective call centers  & by analysing customer return data. All of these activities can help organisations predict market trends.

The closer the supplier can get to its customers the better the chance of  Innovation success.



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project managers and business consultants

Nokia upwardly mobile….#pmot…#in

  • “We poured gasoline on our own burning platform. I believe we have lacked accountability and leadership to align and direct the company through these disruptive times. We had a series of misses. We haven’t been delivering innovation fast enough. We’re not collaborating internally. Nokia, our platform is burning.” – Stephen Elop, CEO Nokia.

nokiaThe recent internal memo “leaked” from Nokia & published on technology website Endgadget.com demonstrates the need for any corporation, but particularly those in the Technology arena, to have a continuous stream of new product developments flowing to the market. This is the direct result of a new product routemap which clearly identifies Customer needs, market trends and technology requirements.

New Product Development should not be a haphazard process but one which is planned years in advance. It should also be adaptable to allow flexibility in the case of new technological or market developments.

Not so long ago Nokia held pole position in the mobile phone market with huge market share. Now they are languishing behind Apple & others in the
Smartphone arena and are struggling to compete with Chinese manufacturers at the bottom end of the market.

However, all is not doom and gloom. The new CEO Stephen Elop obviously
recognises the problems and is keen to address them. This is the key important step in any recovery. Rather than just bury his head in the sand he is tackling the issues head on which is good news for Nokia empoyees and shareholders.

If you need help with your product development process get in touch NOW!



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1o ways to invigorate teamworking #pmot #in

teamworkMost people involved in New Product Development agree that best results are obtained when people work effectively in teams so here are 10 guaranteed ways to improve teamworking:-

1) Locate the team together in the same room. – If people sit together they work together. It is essential that the primary form of communication is face to face. There should be some allowance for privacy but any cubicle walls should be below head level.

2) Locate the Project Manager in the same room – As the Project Manager there may be a tendency to remain distant or aloof from the team. This is counterproductive and wrong. The Project Manager should be located in the same room as the team. If She has her own office the door should be left open to allow ready access. If She sits with the team there should be a private office available for personal discussion.

3) Hold regular team meetings – although there may be some resistance to this (too much work etc) it is essential that the team meet at least once a week to discuss project status.

4) Issue meeting minutes – It helps communication if everyone knows exactly what is expected of them following the team meeting. The minutes also act as a good crib for next weeks meeting.

5) Promote a democratic culture – environments where people feel free to speak their minds openly and honestly lead to faster problem solving and decision making.

6) Promote team activities – 5 a side football or similar activities are great if everyone is  fit and active but be careful to choose something EVERYONE can take part in otherwise you will alienate some team members and defeat the purpose. I have always found bowling to be a great choice which just about everyone can do.

7) Eliminate the Blame Culture – resist every opportunity to blame others and take responsibility for your own decisions. Blame Cultures are endemic in some organizations and will take time to be eradicated but the changes in performance will be immeasurable.

8) Listen twice as much as you talk – we all know the old saying about empty vessels making the most noise and no where is this more true than in Project Management.  Try really listening to people and see their reaction.

9) Put the Structure in place – whether its based on PRINCE2, Project Management Institutes PMBOK or some alternative combination, Teams are more effective when they no what the rules are.

10) Keep a sense of humour – as the Project Manager nothing upsets or disorients the Team more than a panicky Manager. Keep a sense of perspective, enjoy the fun bits and lead by example.



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10 tips for faster leaner new product development #in #pmot #lean


Bringing New Products to Market faster & more efficiently is even more critical as product life-cycles shrink so here are 10 tips for faster, leaner New Product Development:-

1) Nail the spec early – the sooner the product spec is finalised the smoother & faster the development will be. Less time & effort will be wasted debating the minutiae if the spec is closed early.

2) 5s the area – Apply the Lean principles of 5s (see earlier post) to remove unnecessary distraction and promote “clear thoughts”

3) Promote re-use in Design – to reduce design effort and make best use of proven and qualified technology.

4) Parallel Planning & Design – Design is normally the longest phase in New Product Development so why wait until the end of Planning to start Design. Start Design in parallel and adapt the plan when more is known about the length of the design phase.

5) Arrange Regular Reviews – during the Design phase and break the task into smaller “chunks”. Design is one of those tasks which has a tendency to expand to fill the time allowed for it.

6) Structure the Innovation process – ensure that Innovation board reviews are scheduled well in advance and board members have suitably qualified deputies so that stage gate reviews suffer no delays due to the absence of key personnel. The Innovation process should become Institutionalized.

7) Dedicated multifunctional Teams – are more effective than matrix teams  If resource allows.

8) Design for Manufacture – manufacturing & production engineers need to be involved in the product development process to ensure a smooth transition from development to manufacture.

9) Minimize interruptions & noise – in the product development area.

10) Promote a democratic involving Management style – to increase free discussion and mutual respect.



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The Jaguar roars…..

Jaguar XF - a great example of new product development success

Jaguar XF - a great example of new product development success

This weekend jaguar Land Rover announced that it had reversed its threat to close one of its U.K plants and, even better, said that it would create thousands of new jobs including 1500 at it’s plant at Halewood on Merseyside.

Barely 2 years after fears that Jaguar Land Rover might fold Q2 profits of £233 million have boosted confidence in the future of the luxury car market.

A large part of this success is due to innovative new product development and in particular the success of the new XF range.

According to data from the European Automobile Manufacturers’ Association (ACEA), the number of Jaguar’s being registered in Western Europe in April rose 70.3 per cent year-on-year – way above any other volume manufacturer.
Jaguar have addressed one of the main concerns amongst luxury car consumers – the trade off between performance and fuel consumption. The XF does a staggering 0 – 60 m.p.h in 5.3 seconds and still manages a meagre 47 m.p.g.
Jaguar have demonstrated how investment in innovation and new product development can bring success even in the most difficult of economic climates.

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Adding ideas to the Roadmap……


Now you need to add those ideas generated from your Brainstorming session to your Product Roadmap. We suggest the following process:-

1) The first key step is to match the New Product Ideas to the Technology Roadmap. If the Idea does not match up to the Technology available then the capability to bring it to market will be extremely limited and the cost of developing the appropriate technology will have to be taken into consideration.

2) The Business Case should be thoroughly reviewed in terms of potential Market, Unit Cost, Selling Price, Volume, Resources etc

3) Products generating the greatest IRR (Internal Rate of Return) should be given priority.

4) Only when the above process has been followed and New Product Ideas meet the required Company criteria should the New Product Development commence.

By pursuing a New Product Development process which follows a defined Product Roadmapping process you will ensure that New Product Developments are resourced effectively and time to market is minimized which brings maximum returns.



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“Give me a faster horse”

modelTHenry Ford once commented that if he’d asked his customers what they wanted they would have replied “Give me a faster horse”.

Sometimes in New Product Development we have to take a Quantum leap in imagination so that we can develop products which no one else has imagined.

“Brainstorming” is one techniques to help that process:-

1) Form a team of maximum 10 people drawn from all levels of the organization.

2) The “Chairperson” should be mid level with no obvious authority.

3) Provide some drinks and snacks to create a relaxed atmosphere.

4) Go round the table asking each one in turn what products they think the Company should be developing.

5) Don’t reject anything at this stage.

6) Don’t criticize anyone else’s contribution.

7) Get someone to list all the contributions on a whiteboard.

8 ) When all contributions are exhausted arrange them into different categories.

9) Vote on the top 5.

In the next post we will explore how to take these ideas forward.


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“If you don’t know where your going…

product roadmap

product roadmap

any road will take you there.” – Lewis Carroll

To increase the success ratio in New Product Development it is essential that your company has its own New Product Development Roadmap.

This Roadmap highlights the Products your organization intends to develop in the coming years.  These product developments should be based on sound market intelligence, garnered from current customers and taking into account market developments and competitor analysis.

The New Product Roadmap doesn’t just identify market opportunities. It also takes into account the Technologies, Resources, Finances, Production Capacity etc etc so that the whole Organization knows exactly what needs to be put in place so that that the New Products are launched successfully.

The New Product Roadmap needs to be approved at the very top of the Organization. It is a “living document” which should be reviewed on a regular basis and updated as required.

The adoption of a New Product Roadmap clarifies the direction the organization is headed in and ensures that everyone is “singing from the same Hymn sheet”

“If you don’t know where you’re headed any road will take you there”



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Failure breeds success………

Most would agree that Apple is one of the most innovative and successful companies involved in new product development. However even they have had their fair share of Bloopers, so lets take a look at some of them:-

MacTV The Mac TV was released in 1993 and was Apple’s first attempt to integrate the functionality of a P.C with a cable ready T.V. Unforthunately it’s slow bus speed  of 16 MHz made for a slow P.C compared to it’s rivals and a very expensive T.V at over $2000. Needless to say it flopped and only 10k were produced.

macintosh_portableApple’s first attempt at a portable computer was the Macintosh portable. Released in 1989 it was way ahead of its time, and so it should have been at a whopping $6500.  It weighed in at a hefty 7.2kg and had an active matrix LCD screen which was fantastic but the major contributor to its cost.

apple_pipinIn 1995 Apple licensed its PIPPIN technology to Bandai to make a PC based game consol. The only problem was the competition, SEGA, SONY, Nintendo and PC based systems were already dominating the market. Only 42,000 PIPPIN units sold and it was withdrawn from the market.

O.K, you get the picture. Even the most innovative companies have their fair share of commercial failures. Typically this may run as high as 8 failures for every 2 successes, following the well known Pareto rule.

Less successful companies will have an even higher failure rate and in many cases this will lead to their ultimate demise.

So how should an organization skew the playing field to ensure a higher success rate ?

That will be the subject of the next post.

Until then, just remember, failure breeds success.



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