Every launch involves tremendous volumes of data. Data elements originate from multiple sources and providers, and all the data must be collected and validated for accuracy and completeness. Standardization in the informational exchange processes, timings and formats eliminates error and waste.
As the saying goes, nobody plans to fail, but they often fail to plan.
Right decisions made early in the pre-launch process can only come through collaboration between the internal and external product team members. This requires a disciplined and laser focus. The time and effort expended in the pre-launch process enable improved quality and promotes a program cost-avoidance approach, which is always better than attempting to go back to add quality in and take cost out.
One of the largest challenges in supporting the launch process is in the gathering and validation of the data elements necessary to the design and implementation of an effective logistics network. In the case of DaimlerChrysler, Ryder has identified over 60 data elements for every part record necessary to the design and optimization of a supporting logistics network. With flexible manufacturing, each launch may require over 200,000 individual pieces of data. Ryder keeps an inbound transportation cost model for each launch and provides a financial journal of all changes affecting the inbound cost.
To address the sheer data volumes, Ryder developed the tools and processes to collect, maintain and conduct analysis on manufacturing parts in a database that currently houses over 1 million parts. Synchronized program launch goals help unify functional group goals and support right decision-making. Timely and free sharing of decision data is necessary for all program members to ensure the quality and cost effectiveness of the launch.
Working together with the customer, Ryder applies a number of best practices to ensure success. DaimlerChrysler has created an overarching supply launch timeline, and DaimlerChrysler Logistics and Ryder have standardized the logistics launch timeline to support the manufacturing process. Information and data requirements have also been incorporated into a launch plan, giving consideration to the key dependencies of the functional groups and extended partner providers. We have also leveraged our knowledge capital to help DaimlerChrysler lean out time and waste in the launch timeline.
There is a lot of uncertainty over the success of a new product launch, and manufacturers don't know how a new model will do until it hits the marketplace. For a logistics provider, the primary measurements of a launch's success are "on time" and "on budget." The success of a launch is also judged on its concept to production cycle time and the seamless integration of new processes and suppliers into the production value stream.
Keys to Success
Keys to a successful program launch and network design include:
- Starting early
- A predetermined launch plan (with program goals)
- Willingness to adjust priorities
- Frequent communications — Integrate cross-functional group processes and pay attention to the value stream
- Right tools
- Right people (knowledge capital)
- Project discipline (review the plan)
Automotive program launches are enormous undertakings, and launches in other industries can be no less challenging or complex. Regardless of the industry or product, companies gearing up to support a program launch initiative would be wise to consider identifying and aligning with a capable partner-provider that has the experience, tools, patience and perseverance to finish the race. Companies need to empower and support strong leaders that can direct and channel the efforts of the collective program group members.
About the Authors: David Michael is director, business development, and David Lucke is logistics project manager at Ryder System, Inc. More information at www.ryder.com.