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Talented product development staff is ultimately the most critical component to developing great products. Optimizing the processes that our talented people use allows them to flourish.
A key component of cutting edge product development involves the identification and ultimate resolution of all marketing, engineering and manufacturing knowledge gaps associated with inventing new products. We call this process knowledge-based design. By addressing knowledge gaps with customer interaction, prototyping and testing we get an in-depth idea where we should push the envelope with our next generation designs. Conventional product development thinking entails developing a firm spec and then attempting to design to meet that spec; the problem is that you end up with either inferior products or time consuming design loops as it is far too easy to under or over specify design possibilities when many knowledge gaps exist. With knowledge-based design learning comes first, which allows the development of exciting new products with a minimum of design loops.
DJO Global utilizes a crisp, objective, visual and interactive general purpose tool developed by Toyota known as an A3. The tool, so named because it can fit on an A3 size of paper, engenders a style of thinking that is rigorous and thorough; communication that focuses on hard data and vital information; and problem solving that is collaborative and objective. The processes used to develop specific A3s are as important as the A3 itself. Types of A3s at DJO Global include but are not limited to knowledge capture; problem solving with LAMDA (Look, Ask, Model, Discuss, Act); VOC (Voice of the Customer); project management; vendor background and capabilities; new concepts; and technology mapping. DJO Global posts A3s in the hallways as a means of actively soliciting feedback, and even has an A3 Wall of Fame.
Have you ever noticed that when a problem occurs everyone is quick to offer a solution? While at first blush this can be considered a good thing, it in fact can lead to reduction in quality and time delays, as it is too easy to act on a solution that is not optimized or just plain wrong. Our LAMDA – Look, Ask, Model, Discuss, Act – cycle is a valuable tool that emphasizes knowledge creation for problem solving, and truly understanding the root cause of the problem prior to “Acting” and implementing a solution. The process begins by having our staff visit the gemba, or the site of the problem, to understand its full impact. The next step, Ask, gathers expert input by asking “why” and “who”? Modeling, the next step, tests our hypothesis’ and fills knowledge gaps. The fourth step, Discussion, examines information gathered during the LAM phases to identify the root causes and appropriate countermeasures. In the final step, Act, the countermeasures are implemented and the appropriate follow-up checklists are created.
Identifying and eliminating steps that do not add value is crucial to the lean new product development process. We want our development staff working as much as possible on value-add activities, activities from which our customers directly benefit, such as design and customer interaction. A project's lead time is radically decreased when the focus is on reducing non value-adding activity. Kaizen Blitz tools are used to continually reduce or eliminate non-value add activities, activities from which our customer do not directly benefit, such as internal paperwork and management meetings. All of these efforts leave more time for innovation and delivering great products to our customers.