How New Product Development Influences Product Safety?

Andy Yunlong Zhu (DBA Graduate 2011) is currently a senior vice- president at Goodbaby International Holdings Ltd. He is an adjunct lecturer at Nanjing University and Sun Yat-  sen University. Trough his thesis, the researcher underlines that three factors are essential to ensuring product safety: (1) product safety strategy, (2) product safety culture, (3) and the NPD process.
 

Thesis Overview

Improving product safety is an important objective for all stakeholders in new product development (NPD). Previous research on NDP practices has provided little empirical evidence to analyze the effects on product safety. To fill this gap in knowledge, the researcher analyzed and quantified the relationships between product safety strategy, product safety culture, concurrent engineering, NPD processes and product safety performance.

Using Structural Equation Modeling, this thesis provides actionable insights for academics, managers and regulators. The researcher first developed a conceptual model using data collected from 255 respondents at 126 companies in the durable juvenile product industry. Semi-structured in-depth interviews with 40 senior managers at 33 companies worldwide provided further insights.

Research results highlighted that top management is the main driver for product safety. A company's product safety strategy affects its product safety culture and NDP process. Product safety culture was found to have a strong and direct relationship with concurrent engineering and NDP processes. The NDP process determines product safety performance,while concurrent engineering has no significant effect on NDP process and product safety performance.

The researcher concluded that product safety strategy, product safety culture and NDP process are the three cornerstones of successful product safety management. The researcher's work also underlines that governments and consumers play a key role in ensuring product safety.

Managerial Impact of the research

Product safety has become an essential factor for businesses worldwide. Manufacturing firms strive to achieve optimal product safety while consumer organizations and regulatory bodies carefully monitor the safety of new and existing products. Recent problems in product safety have led to increased public awareness and focus on safety issues.

As a result, companies are always seeking to improve the safety of their products, in particular during the development of new products (NDP). This thesis provides academics, managers and regulators with concrete insights to improve product safety.

The researcher underlines that three factors are essential to ensuring product safety: (1) product safety strategy, (2) product safety culture,(3) and the NDP process. The results highlight that top management is the driver for product safety and must lead a company's product safety strategy. By committing to a company-level product safety strategy, top management can influence company culture and NDP practices, both of which are crucial factors as they directly impact product safety performance.

Top management must therefore provide strong support and commit resources in order to position product safety as a key priority. To guide managers in creating a successful product safety strategy, the researcher analyzed the differences between best performers and other companies in terms of NDP practices.

Best performers had quality requirements that were more stringent than regulatory requirements. They demonstrated reliable hazard analysis and safety review processes. They were more prone to use safety management tools such as FMEA. Their product testing and evaluation was more thorough. Their product safety or quality team had the power to kill a project. They participated in establishing product safety regulatory standards. Their teams benefited from better product safety training.

Key Points

  • Top management drives product safety.
  • Company culture and new product development practices play crucial roles in product safety.
  • To improve new product development practices in terms of safety, companies can: use more stringent quality requirements; implement reliable hazard analysis and safety review; use safety management tools such as FMEA; require thorough product testing and evaluation; empower quality teams to kill projects; participate in establishing regulatory standards; and provide their teams with better product safety training.
  • Concurrent engineering has no significant effect on product safety.