- The application of lean to new product development (NPD) processes has been claimed to generate positive impact on NPD performance. There are very few empirical studies, however, on how organizations should apply lean practices or on the exact nature of the impact of lean on NPD performance. To further understand how the application of lean can improve NPD performance, additional empirical studies are needed. This research was designed to gain a better understanding of how organizations can apply lean to improve NPD processes. The objectives of this research were (1) to identify common practices used to apply lean to NPD processes, (2) to identify performance indicators used to evaluate NPD process performance and the impact of applying lean on NPD process performance improvement, (3) to identify challenges faced by organizations in applying lean to NPD, (4) to study whether or not there was a relationship between the number of practices used and NPD process performance, and (5) to study whether or not there was a relationship between years of experience with lean and NPD process performance.
Eight hypotheses were developed to support the research objectives. An internet survey was created to collect data to test the eight hypotheses. Fifty-eight organizations completed the survey. Of the 58 responding organizations, only 27 had applied lean to NPD. Following analyses of the data, five findings, related to the research objectives, are of particular note. First, the results indicated that all fourteen practices included on the survey were useful in applying lean to NPD. Since the practices included on the survey were a mix of lean and more traditional continuous improvement practices, these findings suggest that organizations can use a variety of practices, and are not limited to only lean practices, when applying lean principles to NPD.
Second, the research results also suggest that organizations can use a wide range of performance indicators to evaluate NPD process performance after implementing lean. The results also confirmed that the application of lean practices generally produced positive impacts on NPD process performance, as measured by time, cost, and quality performance indicators.
Third, all six challenges proposed in this research were experienced by the organizations included in this study during their lean implementations in NPD. The lack of management commitment and support and unsupportive organizational culture were two challenges that were identified as barriers to applying lean in NPD.
Fourth, the results indicated that there was no relationship between the number of practices used and NPD process performance, as measured by time, cost, and quality performance indicators. Although organizations made an effort to use a variety of practices to support all lean principles, NPD performance improvement does not appear to increase as the number of practices used increased.
Fifth, there was an inverse relationship between years of experience with lean and NPD process performance, as measured by time, cost, and quality performance indicators.
Two explanations have been suggested to explain this unexpected finding. First, it is possible that as organizational experience with lean increases, organizational leaders expect greater improvement than actually realized. Second, it is possible that since participating organizations had limited lean knowledge, organizations were less effective in these lean implementations.