Product safety is a hallmark of modern society and thus carefully monitored and managed by manufacturing firms, consumer organizations, and regulatory bodies. The recent concern for declining product safety has heightened the attention to product safety globally and led to an increase of public awareness about product safety with some high-profile cases.
In spite of all stakeholders’ tremendous interest on product safety improvement, academic research on NPD (New Product Development) practices has produced little empirical evidence on their implications on product safety. The purpose of this research is to fill the gap by analyzing and quantifying all relevant relationships between product safety strategy, product safety culture, concurrent engineering, NPD process, and product safety performance with SEM (Structural Equation Modeling) and to provide actionable insights for academics, managers, and regulators. Grounded on theoretical models of national quality award, (e.g., EFQM (European Foundation for Quality Management) excellence model, a conceptual model), product innovation and product safety was developed and tested with data collected from 255 respondents at 126 firms in the durable juvenile product industry worldwide.
Semi-structured in-depth interviews with 40 senior managers at 33 firms worldwide provide great insights into understanding the dynamics of product safety in the juvenile product industry.
The findings of this dissertation reveal that top management is the main driver for product safety. Product safety strategy affects a firm’s product safety culture in NPD and the NPD process practices that the firm adopts. Product safety culture has a strong and direct relationship with concurrent engineering and the NPD process, and the NPD process determines product safety performance. Concurrent engineering only shows a weak effect on the NPD process. Both product safety strategy and product safety culture have very strong indirect effects on product safety. However, the hypothesis on the relationship between product safety strategy and concurrent engineering is not supported, and there is no evidence that concurrent engineering affects product safety either. In general, product safety strategy, product safety culture, and NPD process are three cornerstones for product safety.
In addition, this dissertation also reveals that beside manufacturers, governments and consumers also play a very important role to ensure product safety in this ultra-competitive environment. Although most of the best performers claimed that they have more stringent requirements than the regulatory standards, and they are not affected by external factors, in the absence of government intervention and consumers’ (and retailers’) focus on product safety, the goal to improve overall product safety performance in the market remains elusive. On the other hand, this dissertation identified a couple of major issues facing the industry and a big gap between the safe