Building a world-class productization team

I’ve (been) volunteered to lead a workshop for the Rockies Venture Club’s Investor Pitch Academy focused on “Understanding Team Building Dynamics for Business Growth” in February (see  Would not have been my first choice on topics to talk about but I’ve been helping pull the whole Investor Pitch Academy together for some months and, well,  here I am.  So I started thinking about what this means for productization teams—test development, industrialization, process development, validation testing, DFx, supply chain development, DFMEAs, and the like—and realized that the challenges faced by start-ups on this are really no different from those faced by companies who are serious about building up their productization teams.  So I thought I would attempt to opine on the subject of building a world class productization team:

  1. Make sure you have management buy-off and an effective productization leader. Otherwise you are wasting your time.
  2. A people hire other A people. B people hire C people, C people hire D people, etc.  Therefore never compromise on quality of hires.
  3. Hiring should be treated in a generic way.  There are in fact a number of alternatives from full time, “permanent hires” to contractors to partners to temps.  Of course be cognizant of IRS or other tax issues—as always the advice here is “consult yoru tax advisor”
  4. While one should never generalize, for productization engineers, more so perhaps than many other professions, a little gray in the proverbial beard is often a real necessity.  Many of the issues faced by productization engineers require decisions made based on experience bringing similar products into production.  This can’t be taught at the university.  So while age, flippancy aside, is not a requirement, having a handful of successful product launches under one’s belt is pretty much mandatory.
  5. Generalists have an advantage here:While the trend these days is to hire specialists, for productization there is a real benefit finding engineers who have a breadth of experience in many of the interrelated design, test and manufacturing engineering sub specialties.  For example a mechanical engineer with both design and test experience adds a lot of value.

While traditional hiring is the default choice, outsourcing (warning, shameless plug follows) to a productization services company like Zebulon Solutions can provide a few benefits.

  • Fractional, a key word to know in any case, can be a big cost savings if you need a particular skill set but not full time
  • If your needs are project based—you need such a skill set for the next six months but not permanently—these are also good choices
  • If you do not have the skills sets in your management team to effective manage productization engineers, it may be more effective to outsource the ownership as well as the actual labor
  • The last reason to outsource is to get access to specific skills and world class expertise that are not easy to find.  For productization, especially in the US, finding engineers who have extensive design and manufacturing experience under one roof with a couple of pockets full of successful launches is increasingly rare.  Many competent design engineers have not only never fully launched a product, and many have never even set foot in a factory (I asked this question once to a roomful of engineers at a client for which I was acting as interim VP of engineering.  The answer was only one had launched a product into production before and only one more had ever been in a factory…)

All for now.  Wish me luck on doing this workshop.


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