As Heraclitus puts it: there is nothing permanent except change.
This is exceptionally true when it comes to hardware projects planning – no matter how thorough the project schedule is defined, the possibilities for sudden changes, delay in particular, still stands high.
The reasons are simple yet sophisticated.
Project management is dynamic, with many facets constantly changing. Resources, materials, process, just to name a few.
It can be caused by one single issue or multiple elements at the same time. And the result is always upsetting and your team will rack their brains trying to figure out corrective solutions, in order to achieve time to market for your product.
I bet you’ve thought about this question over and over – what measures should you and your team take to minimize the risks?
Don’t worry, here are 5 signs that may give you a heads-up for the schedule slip, summarized from our experience on hundreds of projects.
1. Unrealistic project schedule
Many OEMs are too optimistic about the schedule.
They tend to over-promise to investors and backers for a good cause, though leading to disappointing results quite often.
It’s important to establish, review and maintain a realistic schedule to specific business needs.
Ask questions if you are not sure such as:
- Are risks analyzed from Design for Manufacturing (DFM) to mass production, and every step in-between?
- Has the schedule gone through the internal team, clients and suppliers?
Making sure each stakeholder is evolved and on the same page should always be the first move for a scientific and effective planning.
2. Wrong contract manufacturing (CM) partner
Choosing a contract manufacturer is critical. A business can’t succeed without the right partners.
If a CM is selected via an unqualified broker, some former network or just some allegedly reputable tier 1 suppliers, you’re putting the entire supply chain at big risks. And the schedule would become out of control easily.
So, don’t rush into a CM. Take your time identifying business, technical and supply chain risks via running a professional selection process. The supplier assessment process upfront will certainly pay back later.
3. Lack of solid quality plan in the NPI stage
There are lots of discussions, or even arguments on quality requirements and standards in the early project stage, if no solid quality plan is clearly defined and aligned.
A proper plan should include at least the criteria, process, measurement tools, methodology and timeline. Otherwise, it takes additional time to confirm, and the project schedule is surely affected accordingly.
What’s worse, some supplier will take it as an excuse to charge more money and leverage that there are only two options here: sacrifice quality standard for the schedule, or meet requirements but you have no choice but to accept the delay.
4. No onsite manage production and control schedule
“You will not get what’s negotiated, you get what’s managed”.
The saying is frequently heard of in the manufacturing industry. Your team spent certain amount of time determining the whole schedule with suppliers, and you think it’d a big progress and the next step is to regular review and actions tracking. But is that true?
Not exactly so, without onsite project management team in place.
Relying on suppliers’ efforts to manage manufacturing across ocean is a real challenge, even manufacturing giants like Apple has local resources staying in the factory, monitoring manufacturing status on a daily basis.
It’s essential to allocate your own team, or hire professional consultants representing your benefits, onsite review details and ensure deliverable. The front-line group should not only be your eyes and ears on the ground, but also problem solvers in real-time
5. No schedule risk analysis and mitigation plan
Have you established a complete schedule risk analysis system, process and tools?
Or in other words: Is a full checklist established for a phase gate review? How can you prevent and/or handle materials shortage, quality failure, testing issue, cash flow problem or even failing supplier relationships?
Have you mapped out mitigation action plans for these risks?
If there isn’t a contingency plan, it’s very likely that the project schedule delay will happen over and over again.
How to deal with project delays?
Now you are aware of some typical signs. Then comes the real money: when delay occurs, what can we do?
Here are a few tips for your reference:
1. Take actions, rather than blaming each other
If delay seems inevitable, don’t blame anybody as it does nothing but making the situation worse. Take the leadership, analyze root causes and act in time.
2. Form a strong team
Once getting familiar with status quo, let’s assemble a team with roles and responsibilities clearly defined, collect and analyze data, assess potential impact and make appropriate decisions for short-term and long-term improvement.
3. Execute the action plan
The team has come up with a series of solutions, make sure these actions are executed properly, and the output should be reviewed more often than usual.
4. Be a good communicator
Whether you just noticed project delay risks, or in the process of executing prevention and corrective action plan, communicating well with all stakeholders is always the key.
Set up an open, direct and honest tone. The whole project team work together positively, solve the problem hand-in-hand if they are respected and motivated.
What’s your experience on project schedule management? Contact us freely or simply reply this article today.