2006 Plant of the Year: Lear's 7-Pronged Product Development Strategy
Faster time to market is a critical business objective for all automakers today. The goal is to get new vehicles to consumers quicker than ever.
Lear Corp. (Southfield, MI) is addressing this issue by implementing a new core dimension product strategy. The company will now introduce product and technology solutions as one of seven consumer-focused dimensions: comfort and convenience; commonization; craftsmanship; environmental; flexibility; infotainment; and safety.
"These categories highlight dimensions of consumer emphasis where Lear innovation can make vehicles more attractive to consumers and potentially influence a purchasing decision," says Douglas DelGrosso, president and chief operating officer. "With the core dimension strategy, Lear underscores its ability to provide automakers with the interior features categorized in the most frequently mentioned areas of importance by drivers, as well as Lear's customers."
Within each dimension, Lear offers consumers numerous innovations from one or more of the company's three product segments: seating, electrical and electronics, and interior products. For example, Lear product experts who are assisting a customer with identifying product concepts for a vehicle platform favored by consumers who identify "safety" as the primary consideration in the vehicle-purchase decision would focus on features that research has shown to be highly valued by that consumer segment.
"Given the industry's move away from total interiors, we looked for an alternative, more flexible way to present the company's product and technology capabilities," explains DelGrosso. "Our relentless focus on customer satisfaction and pursuit of world-class quality led us to identify these seven dimensions that are most important to our automotive customers and their consumers.
"With content on more than 300 vehicle models worldwide, Lear is continually evolving its product and technology capabilities to meet the changing needs of automakers," adds DelGrosso. "Going forward, each of the company's new products will be brought to market in line with the new seven-dimension strategy."
According to DelGrosso, the seven dimensions were chosen based on the impact that each has on the overall consumer experience:
- Comfort and convenience. "Comfort and convenience features are no longer reserved solely for expensive luxury vehicles," says DelGrosso. "Lear seating products are designed to achieve maximum passenger comfort by adding a wide range of manual and power capabilities. Our electronics product portfolio includes an extensive variety of wireless control systems that enhance driver convenience. Our interiors systems group offers technology and process innovations to meet this growing area of consumer demand."
- Commonization. Through the utilization of common systems, Lear offers a high level of reusable content across designs. "This reduces costs, but maintains the flexibility that automakers require to differentiate their vehicle platforms," explains DelGrosso. He says the benefits from commonization are passed by the automaker to vehicle consumers through cost and quality improvements.
- Craftsmanship. "As a result of extensive consumer research, Lear understands what customers want in a vehicle interior," says DelGrosso. "Realizing that the perception of a vehicle's quality is largely dependent upon its ‘look and feel' in the eyes of the consumer, Lear engineers and designers have developed new manufacturing techniques to improve system harmony and design flexibility for automakers."
- Environmental. Consumer demand for more environmentally responsible vehicles is growing. "Lear works closely with automakers and suppliers to support green manufacturing and to reduce the environmental impact of its products," DelGrosso points out. "Lear has also turned its expertise in electrical distribution systems to developing hybrid solutions."
- Flexibility. Adaptability and functionality are key to creating a vehicle interior that will make a lasting impression on a consumer. "To that end, configurability is emerging as a key purchase consideration," notes DelGrosso. He says Lear has received customer awards for its expertise in flexible interior concepts.
- Infotainment. In the increasing world of connectivity, drivers are demanding more information and entertainment features that make their daily commute more relaxing and entertaining. "Lear's expertise in interior components and state-of-the-art multimedia products can help automakers turn vehicle cabins into personalized sanctuaries," claims DelGrosso.
- Safety. According to recent studies, safety has emerged as a key differentiator and vehicle selling point, with six of the top 10 features that consumers would most likely purchase in their next automobile being safety related. "Lear's product solutions offer automakers the technology they need to address the growing safety concern," says DelGrosso.