A New Product Blueprinting Case Story
Supplying the automotive industry isn’t for the faint of heart. This Fortune 500 producer of chassis bonding solutions knew its large OEM customers were demanding major innovation, but would only pay for proven value… and stingily at that.
It was clear that innovation was indeed needed: Requirements for fuel economy led to the need for light-weighting… which had introduced novel materials… that were often difficult to join into a single chassis. To understand the challenges involved, the team began with qualitative Discovery interviews of its large OEM customers. This Blueprinting team knew each interview with such important customers counted for a lot. So each Discovery interview was attended by 6-to12 OEM engineers.
Next the team moved into the quantitative Preference interview stage. Once again, they ensured all the major decision-influencers were in attendance. When different job functions disagree on 1-to-10 importance and satisfaction scores, a seasoned team lets them debate for a while and then asks, “How important is this from the perspective of your entire company?” (This is why group interviews are generally preferred over individual interviews in B2B.)
The team learned of two outcomes with overwhelmingly strong desire for change: vibration dampening and reduced assembly time. These were not trivial challenges, but the company left no stone unturned seeking solutions. They finally succeeded and launched their first product, which enjoyed higher-than-expected sales. They have now moved on to a second-generation new product, still informed by their initial interviews.
Lesson 1: Customers love Blueprinting interviews. When the team leader asked one of the automotive OEM engineers for his reaction, he replied: “I’ve worked here for 35 years and never once had a supplier ask me what I wanted!” Lesson 2: Your work is far from done when your New Product Blueprinting interviews reveal customer needs: You still need to come up with often-elusive solutions. But your chances of success are so much better: Your R&D is laser-focused on only that which matters to customers, while competitors remain unfocused.