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22-10-2010, 11:26 AM

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Shorter development leads times, other things being equal, contribute to competitive advantage in many of today’s industries where market needs and available technologies are difficult to predict, rapidly changing or diversified and where novelty is highly valued in the market. In this paper we focus on the identification and solving of development problems during earlier phases of product development- a concept that we define as “front loading”-as a way to reduce development time and cost and thus free up resources to be more innovative in the market place. Using a problem solving perspective of product development, we develop a conceptual model of front loading and present related examples and case evidence from development practices. We propose that front loading can be achieved using multiple approaches out of which the following two are presented in detail-
1) Increased problems and specific knowledge transfer between project and implimentations and
2) Higher rates of early problem identification and solving through effective deployment of advanced technologies and methods.
The implications of managerial practices and theory are discussed and suggestions for further research are proposed.


Shortening product development time has become an explicit objective of many firms, particularly in very competitive industries where time has become a key driver for development success. The importance of shorter development time has been supported by a number of publications, ranging from the strategic value of time to methodologies and techniques thet can aid managers in achieving significant time reductions. Some of the proposed methods include adding people , finding and focusing on critical paths, overlapping problem-solving, and the utilization of carry-over parts and platforms.
In this paper we have adopted a problem-solving perspective which is increasingly recognized by researchers as being fundamental to product development. Managers of development project and implimentations are usually very concerned about the identification of problem since solving them becomes, on average, increasingly expensive and time-consuming as project and implimentations progress and financial commitments are made. With the recent emergence of new technologies and methods- such as computer aided engineering(CAE) and rapid prototyping-that aid in the acceleration of problem-solving, it is not surprising that some practitioners have initiated concentrated efforts to reengineer their development processes as to move ( or “load”) their problem identification and solution backwards in time (to the “front” of the process). In this paper, we will provide a conceptual model and some evidence from development practice to describe the basic principle behind this rapidly emerging concept.

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