QFD for product & business development

Harnessing Innovation

Harnessing Innovation

Harnessing Innovation – Generating 40% more impact from Research and Development


Smith & Nephew Group Research Centre (GRC) is the corporate research and development facility of a Healthcare
company focusing on high-technology products. It employs 200 people in the development of new technology and novel
product concepts for a number of different markets. Their focus is on radical longer-term technical solutions, which they develop in close cooperation with the operating divisions, who then have responsibility for developing the final product and for marketing and manufacturing it profitably.


The development of radical new technologies is inherently risky. Success can bring a massive payback of many times the original investment, but many of the programmes never reach this point – technical and commercial uncertainties undermine their practicality well before they are launched as products. In addition, programmes can be several years long and each piece of work is unique in many different ways. Because of these factors, the management of performance is a particularly difficult issue (and often a source of contention) and as a consequence it is difficult to address the many sources of inefficiency that are often inherent in such operations.


While each research programme is unique, there are a number of metaprocesses (processes which determine how the work may be best undertaken) that are reasonably consistent and can be developed to reflect best practice (see the diagram on the right). Unfortunately in many scientific communities the focus of interest is almost entirely on the technical challenges – the currency of conversation tends to be discoveries and achievements, with little mind being paid to the efficiency of the approach. GRC wanted to use QFD to explore exactly how these metaprocesses could
leverage their performance of their objectives, and then to gain better control of the organisation through them. Contrary to the fear that process-emphasis can limit creativity, they felt QFD could enable them to develop the metaprocesses to stimulate an increase in creativity and innovation as part of a drive to improve performance and efficiency.
Coincidentally, at about the same time the parent organisation had grown concerned about value for money, and there was increasing pressure for GRC to justify its performance in this regard.

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