Here are some key considerations to keep in mind to have successful, profitable outcomes from your research and development (R&D) initiatives. This assumes that you have an R&D budget. However, when companies are in a growth period, they sometimes forget that it’s important to lay the groundwork that will sustain your growth in the future. Don’t let that happen to you.
The first step is to clearly define your initial goals. You can get the ball rolling by setting specific goals (such as developing an innovative product) or by outlining an overall mission that fuels your team’s creativity.
When defining goals, set both long- and short-term objectives. Short-term goals (three to six months) will have more of an “immediate” payback. Longer-term goals can last a year or more. Goal management is absolutely critical to success.
Pay attention to results. The lack of meaningful output can decrease motivation. If this happens, it may be a good idea to swap out/in new team members to inject fresh ideas and excitement.
Set a budget and name a project manager
A good rule of thumb for R&D is to spend 3 to 5% of annual revenue. It is critically important to keep track of costs so that you know how much to eventually charge for your innovation so that the investment becomes profitable. You must also take into consideration how much a customer would be willing to pay for your development.
It is also a good idea to perform a risk assessment with all stakeholders (including those who are not on the R&D team) to weigh in on what will work and is worth the investment.
You also need to assign a project manager to manage the budget and keep the team on track. In addition to keeping the team focused on the goal, he or she will be responsible for monitoring progress and making sure the budget is on target.
Determining which projects to work on
Determine what you can handle and don’t shoot for the moon unless you have the budget and personnel to achieve the goal. Failure to do so will result in unnecessary expenditures, as well as lost motivation when goals are consistently missed. Don’t be afraid to shut a project down. Not every path you embark on will result in a win.
Equally as critical is to make sure that the projects you are working on are sellable and fit into your business model. You want to be sure that the product or service that you are creating is compatible with your current offerings so you will be able to market it effectively and be profitable.
If you are improving an existing product/service, make sure to take into consideration the return on investment (ROI) by projecting the time/cost/effort impact.
If generating new intellectual property is your goal, you need to determine if it could potentially be worth more than the cost of development.
Executing project development
Make sure to document your development steps. There may be stumbles, however you will need to clearly understand the development path to ensure that the product/service can be recreated efficiently.
Documentation and access to the process needs to be created. It needs to be searchable and accessible by your internal colleagues in order to share the learning. This approach can motivate the team with fresh input or can inspire a different team project.
Use existing technology and/or equipment as much as possible. However, sometimes it will make sense to go outside of your organization for assistance with certain services to shorten timelines and/or expenses. You should also budget for failure. Not all ideas will bear fruit. Be sure there is room in the budget when an ROI is not expected.
Author: Sumit Mukherjee is the chief technology officer of PTI. He has 25 years of experience in preform and container design, materials characterization, process simulation and modeling, and finite element analysis (FEA) for package performance prediction.
PTI is recognized worldwide as a leading source for preform and package design, package development, rapid prototyping, preproduction prototyping, and material evaluation engineering for the plastic packaging industry. For more information: www.pti-usa.com.