Methods and organization of new product development : an investigation in the UK textile and clothing supply chain
There have been relatively few studies into new product development (NPD) in the apparel supply chain which is known for a high level of seasonal product development. Moreover the literature so far has been criticised as not being generalizable with a call for more sector specific studies. The literature also suggests that faster NPD is an aspiration of successive NPD models. The aim of this research has been to study the UK Textile and Clothing Supply Chain sector to discover if it achieves fast NPD through using the recommendations of the literature. The current literature suggests that flexibility is required for success, but that senior management still maintain close control of each project as it progresses through the NPD process. The study used the opportunity to study four supply chains where the researcher was facilitating on improvement projects supported by the Department of Trade and Industry. Sixty eight site visits took place over a two-year period, with two hundred and eighty nine interviews. Mappings were constructed for the NPD processes being used by three leading UK retailer clothing supply chains that collectively had nine hundred and fifty six stores in the UK. Analysis of the mappings and intervention project data suggests that the sector does not use the flexible NPD management and senior management control methods of the literature to achieve speed. Instead there are systems and structures that are by comparison very rigid with timings for key activities and far less senior management involvement. The study shows that sector specific studies can help develop understanding of NPD processes and the research has additionally identified clear methods to achieve fast product development in a supply chain. These include setting boundaries that reduce uncertainty, empowering junior staff and having fixed dates for completion of key NPD activities.