Factory view from the outside

Case Study

Product Development Improvement: Reducing Time-to-Market in Discrete Manufacturing


The Company

The featured company plays a key part in the Home Comfort division of a renowned global group. In Portugal, they have sales nearing 2 billion euros and a team of over 6,000 employees, of which 1,000 are dedicated to research and development. This branch manages the group’s business unit dedicated to residential hot water systems.

In addition to its impact at corporate level, the company is a significant force in the local economy and establishes strong partnerships with various local entities. Its remarkable innovation capability is demonstrated by developing pioneering products and making a mark in the market. The engineering team plays a vital role, contributing to various divisions of the corporation and expanding the reach of their innovations and global impact.

The Challenge

The project focused on designing and developing a new product for the European market to replace an existing one. The project set ambitious goals, which included a significant cost reduction (-30%) and a decrease in the product’s size (-30%) while ensuring delivery within the set timeframe.

While analyzing the existing product development process, several improvement opportunities were identified, including frequent delays in critical processes and long project lead times due to various factors:

  • Lack of detailed planning;
  • Poor visibility and understanding of the overall plan by all parties involved;
  • Departments struggling to define the start dates of their activities;
  • Team members are overloaded and multitasking.

The approach

To optimize the product development process and successfully address the challenges posed by the project, the company sought Kaizen Institute’s support. The project began with a diagnostic phase, during which the process was mapped. During this stage, existing improvement opportunities were identified, as well as solutions to be implemented.

Diagnostic Phase: Process Mapping

During the implementation phase, the team employed a series of pivotal methodologies for the project’s success. These methodologies included:

Stage-Gate Model

A project management approach was implemented in which progress is made through clearly defined phases. At the end of each step, a review is conducted to decide whether the project is ready to move on to the next stage or if adjustments are needed. This ensures the project meets specific criteria at each phase, reducing the risk of issues in more advanced stages.

Project Visual Management Room (Obeya Room)

A dedicated visual management room was established, equipped with all the necessary information and elements to track the project accurately. This included timelines, objectives, performance metrics, and all relevant data for decision-making. The Obeya Room became a command center where teams could collaborate and make informed decisions.

Visual project management room

Pull Project Planning with Project Time Buffer Consumption Indicator

A pull project planning system was adopted, and an indicator was implemented to monitor the project’s buffer consumption to identify potential delays and timely corrective actions early in the process.

Graph representing the project's buffer consumption.

Daily KAIZEN™️ Implementation

To drive continuous improvement within creative teams, the Daily KAIZEN™️ approach was introduced. This involved holding regular, brief meetings to identify obstacles, improvement opportunities, and swift solutions. These meetings encouraged agile problem-solving and ongoing process optimization.

Resource Planning Process Improvement

To optimize resource utilization, the planning process was revamped. This included more efficient personnel and material resource allocation, ensuring each task was executed effectively and at the right time.

Portfolio Management and Capacity Process Optimization

The company also made efforts to manage its project portfolio and resource capacity. This entailed meticulously selecting projects based on strategic criteria, efficient prioritization, and proper resource allocation to ensure projects were carried out effectively.

These collaborative and strategic approaches proved pivotal for the project’s success, allowing the team to overcome challenges and achieve disruptive results. They not only improved the product development process but also bolstered the organization’s innovation capacity and continuous improvement culture.


The results achieved were remarkable. The company managed to develop the new product in line with the project’s initial objectives. There was a 32% reduction in the time required to bring the product to market, showing the effectiveness of the changes. Additionally, resource allocation decreased by 25% compared to previous projects, contributing to greater operational efficiency.

See more on Lean Product Development

Find out more about improving this business area

Get the latest news about Kaizen Institute