Critical Chain Case Study
Ricoh Company, Ltd., the 76-year-old leading provider of advanced office technology and innovative document imaging products, services and software, with fiscal year 2010 sales in excess of $23 billion.
On February 7, 2011, Ricoh announced the launch of a new Unified Communication System (UCS) business. The executives set a target is to acquire sales of $1.2 billion in five years, which is a huge business. The concept of the business is “Anytime, anyone, anywhere, everyone communication.”
Previously, teleconference systems existed only for a single user or for large conference rooms and was not portable. However, an intermediate scale system, for use by 5-6 people, did not exist. With the concept of an easily portable video conferencing system in mind, Ricoh project leader Mr. Takahiro Asai was on a mission to create a new product from scratch on a very aggressive timeline.
How Critical Chain Helped Ricoh's Business
Mr. Asai, the project leader, decided to use critical chain project management during the development test phase. Being Management 3 was used as the critical chain project management software for the development test phase of the P3000 teleconference system.
In addition, a combination of critical chain and Agile was adopted to improve design quality and control the project buffer for due date performance. This minimized design rework and greatly improved quality in the prototype.
When the prototype was delivered to management, it received a very positive in-house response at Ricoh. “How was this accomplished?” was the surprised response because some paradigms about product development had been In fact, early prototypes of the product were used for The Great Eastern Japan Earthquake to connect people and aid in the recovery efforts.
The Team's Experience with Critical Chain
The introduction of critical chain had a very positive effect on the team. They were able to stretch their powers of ingenuity when designing this new technology because of several reasons:
- With regard to figures for the network, dependency between content and the work was visualized and the entire project was easily grasped by the entire team.
- Visualization of the critical chain, in terms of which tasks should be worked on as highest priority and who was assigned, became much more clear.
- With the use of the project buffer graphical report (red, yellow, green zones), progress was visualized early, and corrective measures could be quickly enacted, before problems expanded and caused delays.
Despite being an extremely difficult project as a new market entry with an aggressive timeline, the development of the P3000 was completed on schedule.
It is well known that new product development can run over budget and miss launch dates, but the P3000, as a completed product from a new business, achieved high quality with the initial design and on-time delivery.
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