This article identifies one overlooked secret to accelerating design projects that you can implement immediately and it will work on every project.
You would love to cut a few weeks off the launch schedule for your device. If you had a magic wand, what would you wish for? The trick to accelerating design projects is not an unlimited budget, hiring ten more engineers, or paying a Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory (NRTL) to only work for you.
I know a secret for accelerating design projects that will work, but first you need to understand why projects take as long as they do. Yes, I worked on a few design teams, but I learned the most from watching companies make mistakes that created delays and cost them time. Sterility tests can not be made shorter, guinea pig maximization tests (GPMT) can’t be completed in four weeks, and your electrical safety testing report will not be delivered when the lab promised it would be.
Accelerating design projects by preventing testing delays
The primary source of delay is not that testing is delayed, but rather the testing is not started as early as it could be. Some managers believe that the solution is to use a Gantt chart. Unfortunately, Gantt charts are not a solution. Gantt charts are just tools for monitoring projects. There is much more to project management. If you forget to do just one test, your entire project will be delayed until that test is finished. Therefore, making sure you identify every required test is an essential early project task–even before you start designing your device. You also need to update the plan when things change.
Start with a generic template for your testing plan
Our firm has a template for a device testing plan that we use for every pre-submission request. In fact, getting help creating your testing plan is one of the most important reasons to hire our firm to help you with a pre-submission request. Surprisingly, our template is more comprehensive than most design plans. What makes our plan surprising is that it’s a generic testing plan that I created in 30 minutes. If you would like it, just email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. We also have an updated template for combined design and risk management plans.
I’m not suggesting that our plan template already includes every single safety and performance test. Our testing plan does not include everything. However, we spend several hours looking for applicable guidance documents and researching the testing requirements for your device. Then we add the requirements we find to your customized testing plan in the pre-submission request.
Basics of shortening the critical path
If your testing plan includes 100% of the safety and performance tests that you need, your project will still be unnecessarily delayed. The reason for the unnecessary delay is that you are not taking advantage of the three most important timing factors:
- First, do every test in parallel that you can.
- Second, identify any tests that must be done sequentially.
- Third, protect your critical path from further delays.
If the three “tricks” I listed above are new to you, you might consider reading more about single-minute exchange of die (SMED) techniques, and applying the theory of constraints to project management:
In summary, I gave you several clues to the one secret. But the one secret is simple and practical. You need someone on your team who only focuses on the testing plan. Usually every person on a design team is multitasking, but none of us can really focus when we are multitasking. As the design project manager, it would be impossible for you to focus on one task. You are a project manager of a design team, and managing a project team is inherently all about multitasking. Therefore, you need to give one person on your team the task of focusing on the testing plan throughout the entire project. It doesn’t have to be the same person during every phase of the project. In fact, by rotating who that person is, each person assigned this responsibility only needs to be dedicated for a short duration. This is a critical concept. One person must be focused on your testing plan, and that person must be dedicated to that task as long as they are responsible for focusing on your testing plan. You might even consider making a big deal out of it…
Managers are always looking for creative ways to motivate teams. Custom t-shirts are fun, you can quickly design a different t-shirt for each role on the team, everyone can wear their t-shirt to team meetings, and the testing plan t-shirt will clearly identify who has the responsibility for focusing on the secret to completing the project on schedule. You can order one of these t-shirts from us for $15. I dare you to compare the cost of a few custom t-shirts with the other solutions you were considering.
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