Abstract: The purpose of this thesis is to determine how the evolving new product development process can be improved at the Briggs & Stratton Corporation. Featuring multiple locations, Briggs & Stratton is the world’s largest producer of small air-cooled engines for lawn, garden, and other outdoor equipment. The company is also a major producer of home generators and pressure washers. The company consists of three major divisions. Each division functions as a silo, and largely because of the lengthy stability and success associated with several of Briggs & Stratton’s product offerings, each division relies on new product development processes that in some cases have been in place for years. Recognizing the fiercely competitive, volatile, and rapid nature of today’s new product development environment, Briggs & Stratton has been engaged in the reorganization of its divisions, with a focus on improving new product processes. This thesis employs both a review of the literature and a survey of suppliers to access the company’s current new product development processes, and to develop recommendations for improvement. The current new product development process is evolving, and features a mixture of new approaches (such as stage gate development) and legacy practices. Many current practices — such as the failure to embrace supplier participation, and the use of slow production processes — result in unnecessarily long new product development cycles. After an assessment of the company’s current practices, this thesis concludes that in order to remain competitive, the organization must continue to implement significant changes in its new product development process. This thesis recommends that Briggs & Stratton implement crowdsourcing practices as part of its new product development cycles in order to nurture a potential source of innovation. This thesis also recommends the implementation of an ontology-based knowledge management (KM) system in order to promote and to facilitate the organization-wide knowledge sharing that is necessary for the company to both accelerate and to improve its new product development cycles. Successful knowledge management systems are notoriously difficult to implement. An ontology-based system — with its ready-made descriptive taxonomies — can contribute to an easier KM transition in an organization.
Abstract: Desiring ever-decreasing time-to-market and costs, companies continually refine their methodologies. The following paper examines, especially, the application of crowd-sourcing, principles of open-development and collaborative technologies to the methods of product (or process) development. In so doing, the typical notion of a large company being unable to move swiftly is overturned. A blended study of explicit and tacit elements of Knowledge Management and transformational organizational change, the analysis is treated from the perspective of the company -- and its operational environment -- as a full system instead of an isolated initiative. In addition to crowd-sourcing and collaborative technologies, many systemic dynamics and obstacles are considered. For instance, the role and behavior of leadership, social skills required of the participants, and valuing the expertise of knowledge workers, are examined. An innovative format was chosen. The stories of two hypothetical companies are told in parallel, with surrounding analysis. As a baseline, the first company continues to function in a typical fashion, while the second company transforms itself into an agile product development prodigy engaging the whole organization. Features of the methods are described in sufficient detail so as to be instructive should one or more be desirable for implementation in a practical setting.