Project Management Institute

Planning for Success

Automotive Vehicle Development

Introduction

Vehicle development in automotive world still remains an art at its best. Bridging this art to a science is the focus of numerous process development efforts over the past 20 plus years.

Planning to achieve success depends on how well the standard process is customized to the current vehicle program. In addition, planning should include anticipated roadblocks and ways to circumvent them.

In any auto vehicle development program, there is always a need to review the status weekly, see where the key roadblocks lie and develop management actions to resolve the issues.

The “Road to Program Approval” was developed in one of the vehicle programs to fulfill such a need.

The author discusses the development of such a tool. The team management effectively utilized the tool to monitor the progress leading to a successful milestone completion.

The author feels the tool has enough merits to be standardized for future programs and other key milestones such as “Product Readiness”.

Milestones in automotive vehicle development

All product programs (cars, trucks and parts) have 11 or less (depending upon the scale) milestones. These are opportunities for the senior management to review in detail the program progress, assess the program total health and decide on the next steps.

The Program Approval (<PA>) milestone is one of the critical milestones. The senior management reviews the status and, if satisfied with the review, approves the program including investment and strategies. The team then moves towards the next milestone Product Readiness (<PR>) including engineering design and validation.

The overall project plan (VPP or Vehicle Program Plan) includes high-level tasks from the project initiation through mass production and beyond. Detailed work plans are covered through engineering team plans (PMT Plans i.e., PMT 1 Plan or Exterior PMT Plan) and cross-functional project plans (PAT Plans i.e., Prototype PAT Plan).

Deliverables for Program Approval

Deliverables are the measures of the tasks completions expected. Senior management reviews every milestone. The milestone is approved when all the deliverables are deemed as complete.

GYR (Green/Yellow/Red) for each deliverable at each milestone:

  • Green indicates the team has fully met the criteria for the deliverable
  • Yellow indicates the team has not fully met the criteria but has a workplan to achieve the criteria
  • Red indicates team has not fully met the criteria and has no plan developed to meet the criteria (obviously requiring help from management)

The milestone is approved if the metrics are green for all the deliverables at the milestone. There are situations when the approval is given and yet there are unresolved issues. The program team is responsible to resolve the open issues at a later time.

Key Elements of a Time-Based Progress Metric

Rob Walsh has identified the following seven key elements of a time-based, Progress Metric1:

  • Vision of Success
  • Purpose of the metric
  • Path to Completion and achievement of the vision of success
  • Starting point for the assessment of the progress
  • Actual vs. Plan comparison accomplished regularly over a span of time
  • Error Tolerance of the measurement of actual progress
  • Appropriate Level of Detail

Vision must be specific, clear and well defined. Unclear vision leads to proliferation of the details and metrics requested of the team. This can easily result in a lot of team frustration.

Generic List of &lt;PA&gt; Deliverables

Exhibit 1
Generic List of <PA> Deliverables

<PA> Deliverables

See Exhibit 1. Shows a list of deliverables to be completed at the program approval milestone.

This is a generalized sample list derived from a list developed for an actual program at Ford. The list is categorized by workstreams or logical work groups. At Ford, FPDS (Ford Product Development System) is the guiding document for all vehicle programs. The FPDS generic list of procedures is customized and tailored to the specific program needs.

The sample shows 40 deliverables. Actual vehicle program may have more or less deliverables depending upon the scale of the program. The list of 40 is further categorized as:

  • 16 MUST – These 16 must be completed 100% with no exceptions
  • 22 IMP – There are 22 important (including the above 16) deliverables that deserve special attention
  • 40 STD – These are the total deck of 40 deliverables that need to be completed at the milestone

The list is also categorized into 18 workstreams. This list serves as a checklist against the FPDS document. This provides confidence to the team and management that process discipline is adhered to.

The Program Approval (<PA>) milestone is one of the critical milestones. The senior management reviews the status and, if satisfied with the review, approves the program including investment and strategies. The team then precedes towards the next milestone Product Readiness (<PR>) including engineering design and validation.

The overall project plan (VPP or Vehicle Program Plan) includes high-level tasks from the project initiation through mass production and beyond. Detailed work plans are covered through engineering team plans (PMT Plans i.e., PMT 1 Plan or Exterior PMT Plan) and cross-functional project plans (PAT Plans i.e., Prototype PAT Plan).

There is always a need to review the status weekly, see where the key roadblocks lie and develop management actions to resolve the issues. The “Road Map to <PA>” was developed in one of the earlier programs to fulfill such a need.

Road Map to Program Approval

Key Program Functions

Program Approval is a point in time in a program life where the strategies have been studied and verified. This is an opportunity for the team to demonstrate its confidence to the senior management that the company's expectation of sales, profits, customer satisfaction, quality and other goals will be met.
The following are some of the key functions.

Business Strategy

Business Strategy includes the strategies for marketing, manufacturing, design & engineering. The following is a list of typical questions to be answered:

  • Vision for the product
  • Competitive set of vehicles
  • Volume & Price
  • Investment
  • Profitability
  • Prototype Plant
  • Assembly Plant

Marketing

Marketing includes the following:

  • Price
  • Volume
  • Market share
  • Typical customer
  • Markets

Manufacturing

Manufacturing includes the following:

  • Prototype facility
  • Assembly Facility
  • Labor Union negotiation
  • Process Failure Modes Analysis – Identifying specific ways in which process might fail and then develop counter measures targeted at these specific failures.
  • Process Sigma – Measuring performance from the customer perspective

Finance

Finance includes the following:

  • Affordable business structure
  • Investment
  • Return on investment
  • Payment Approvals

Design

Design includes the following:

  • Vehicle image
  • Vehicle appearance
  • Interior appearance

Engineering

Engineering includes the following:

  • Design & Verification of modules, sub-systems & components
  • Supporting prototypes development & testing
  • Engineering sign off
  • Supporting pre-production vehicles development

The above various functions are accomplished through logical work groups or workstreams as shown in Exhibit 1. Each work stream is responsible to complete a set of deliverables. There is a lot of mutual dependence between the work groups to share information on a daily basis for accomplishing their work. Managing this interaction is the key to success.

Road Map to Program Approval

Exhibit 2
Road Map to Program Approval

See Exhibit 2. This is a generalized sample derived from an actual map used at Ford.

“MBA students are still being taught to give sophisticated answers to the wrong type of question. Even in school laboratories pupils are told to think in terms of keeping the temperature and pressure constant so they can study changes in volume. However, those who have to work in the real world know that a change in volume is not isothermal, but adiabatic: everything is connected to everything else. A problem is like surplus flab – tuck it in here, and it pops out somewhere else.”2

This excellent metaphor on interconnection is relevant to the world of managing automotive vehicle development. This also provides a challenge in developing appropriate, specific plans that need to be current and accurate.

Road Map to Program Approval was developed as an answer to managing the dynamic interaction between various functions and their tasks. Exhibit 1 (<PA> Deliverables) and Exhibit 2 (Road Map to <PA> together constitute the road map.

The visual chart (Exhibit 2) displays a selected set of deliverables (considered key). This became an integration plan for the team. This shows interfaces and interactions as appropriate. The early development started approximately 6 months before the <PA> milestone date. That coincided with the approval of <SI> milestone, where senior management approved the strategies for the vehicle program. It took several iterations of both the list of deliverables (Exhibit 1) and the road map (Exhibit 2) to achieve an acceptable base. The updates continued till about a month before the milestone.

Buy-in from the functional teams

The functional teams were constantly engaged to seek their inputs and concurrence. This process, though time-consuming and, often frustrating, proved to be very valuable. By the time the team management presented to the team at a weekly executive meeting, the team had a good understanding of what each team had to do and the gives/gets between the teams. The buy-in went through smoothly and easily.

Effective team communication

The tool became an easy way to exchange information between program management and the rest of the functional groups. We were on common page.

“A few years ago, a multi-national construction project was chosen as the international project of the year by PMI. Communication was cited as the lading factor amongst success factors. The leading term in the list of lessons learned (things gone wrong that need to be improved) was communication! This only goes to alert any team leadership to monitor the team communication regularly and respond quickly as the need arises.” 3

Change management

Any major change was easily communicated through timely update of the road map

Recommendation

The tool was developed and used in one vehicle program. It was well received by the team management and functional leadership. The usefulness was obvious.

It has a great potential of being useful in future programs. However, the process used would have to be standardized and perhaps, become a part of FPDS (within Ford). Standard templates based on the above two exhibits (Exhibit 1 and Exhibit 2) would have to be developed.

Six Sigma

The author has already submitted a request to initiate a green belt project (Ford's forum to perform six sigma study).

Sigma is a statistical concept that represents the amount of variation present in a process relative to customer requirements or specifications. When a process operates at the six sigma level, the variation is so small the resulting products and services 99.9997% defect free.

“To increase your organization's process-sigma level, you must decrease the amount of variation that occurs. Having less variation gives you these benefits:

  • Create predictability in the process
  • Less waste and rework, which lowers costs
  • Products and services that perform better and last longer
  • Happy customers who value you as a customer”4

Conclusions

The Program Approval (<PA>) milestone is one of the critical milestones. The senior management reviews the status and, if satisfied with the review, approves the program including investment and strategies. The team then precedes towards the next milestone Product Readiness (<PR>) including engineering design and validation.

There is always a need to review the status weekly, see where the key roadblocks lie and develop management actions to resolve the issues. The “Road Map to <PA>” was developed in one of the earlier programs to fulfill such a need.

The author discusses the development of such a tool. The team management effectively utilized the tool to monitor the progress leading to a successful milestone completion. The author feels the tool has enough merits to be standardized for future programs and other key milestones such as “Product readiness” (<PR>).

Acknowledgement

Several engineers have contributed to the development of ideas expressed in this paper. The author wishes to convey special thanks to the members of the vehicle development team.

Krishnan, R. (2002, Ocrober) Roles & responsibilities: Key to Project Success, Project Management Institute Annual Symposium, San Antonio, Texas, USA, October 8, 2002

“The Six Sigma Memory Jogger II”, A Practical Guide of Tools for Six Sigma Improvement Teams 2002, GOAL/QPC

Trompenars, F. (2003) Did the Pedestrian Die? Insights from the World's greatest cultural guru. Oxford, U.K: Capstone Publishing Ltd,.

Walsh R. T. (2002, October) Defining an Effective Time-Based Progress Metric, Project Management Institute Annual Symposium, San Antonio, Texas, USA, October 8, 2002

This material has been reproduced with the permission of the copyright owner. Unauthorized reproduction of this material is strictly prohibited. For permission to reproduce this material, please contact PMI or any listed author.

© 2005 Ramkrishna Krishnan
Originally published as part of 2005 PMI Global Congress Proceedings – Panama City, Panama

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