Employeneurs at NPI (New Product Introduction) work for many different clients. Companies in high-tech, automotive and process industries, among others, experience the added value of TMC professionals every day. Tim Valkenburg is a very experienced and passionate Senior Project Manager. He has made his mark in the consumer electronics and medical sector. According to Tim, a good project manager must have technical and commercial skills, but also be able to put together teams, manage them and bring out the best in each team member.
Tim has 25 years of engineering experience in the role of Program Manager, Project Manager and Quality & Risk Manager. He has worked in various sectors: consumer electronics, aerospace and the medical sector. One project he sees as one of his most successful was the delivery of some medical products. "I joined halfway through the project and four months later our first product hit the market. In the end, we introduced three very different types of products in a short period of time and ensured that they were approved according to strict European guidelines. Those products did not generate huge sales. But because of the enormous complexity it was very satisfying to get this done."
I consider myself more a generalist than a technical specialist. Yet I prefer to work in a technical environment by far and I enjoy attending technical meetings.
"I especially enjoy working in large organizations," says Tim. "There is always a lot going on there, so that as a project manager you are involved with more than just the technology. I consider myself more a generalist than a technical specialist. Yet I prefer to work in a technical environment by far and I enjoy attending technical meetings. It helps when people see that you are familiar enough with the technology."
Scope management is the most important
Of all the tools to lead a project, scope management is on top of Tim's list. "You always have to monitor that, even in a dynamic environment where things are constantly changing. In addition to scope management, requirement management is also essential: every requirement, every part that you deliver, takes time and money. That means you have to decide what to do and what not to do to avoid creating an expanding structure of requirements.
It is then important to find out the KPIs as clearly as possible. What exactly is measured? Are you meeting expectations at every step? Putting a product on the market is the ultimate goal, but in between you must always show that you are on the right track. You have to make a plan together to achieve those goals. When I do that from my ivory tower, it is my planning and I create distance from the team. Lean scheduling is a good tool to monitor progress, but you can't do that in a few hours for complex projects. Still, it is better to invest time at the front, then you win it back at the back."
Identifying risks early
In addition, risk management is very important. "Coincidentally, that also fits well with my character. I ask a lot of questions before I accelerate. I want to know early in advance where I stand. Don't run and then get caught. There are good tools for risk management. But it is through work experience that you really learn to recognize the potential risks. Your team frequently sends signals about those risks, for example that there is not enough time or money or that the competencies are lacking. Only people often do not tell them directly. Pick up signals." Many organizations do manage on technical risks, but less on risks within their own project, says Tim. "By anticipating risks as early as possible, you prevent that at a given moment you are no longer able to stick to your time schedule. I always try to include buffers in projects. You shouldn't overdo it, because then you will never get the product sold, but you have to take setbacks into account."
Voice of the customer
As a Project Manager, you have an exemplary role to the team, especially in terms of culture. "An important condition for working well together as a team is to encourage creativity in everyone. In addition, you must always keep an eye on the voice of the customer. I try to see everyone as my customer and always realize that I need everyone to complete a project. What can I give them so that they are satisfied? When I help them as good as possible, they will help me too.
Ultimately, everything you do should be in the interest of the customer. Strangely enough, that means that sometimes you have to slow people down. A technician does not look at a timeline but always wants to improve. This means that something is never finished. That is good for innovation, but disastrous if you have made a plan.
It is useful if you can move with what is happening as best you can. In addition, you must be able to convince people. You are a bridge builder between people who have to work it out and pay close attention to the details and higher management and perhaps also the end customer. Everyone has their own dynamics."
The life of a Manufacturing Engineer
Employeneurs at NPI (New Product Introduction) work for many different clients. Companies in high-tech, automotive and process industries, among others, experience the added value of TMC professionals every day. Manufacturing Engineer Paul van Geldorp shares his experiences at a high-tech company that makes extremely advanced machines.
Such a team is not automatically attuned to each other. "Sometimes it takes a long time, sometimes it goes quickly. You have to try to get homogeneity in the team as quickly as possible in order to develop together. In projects involving multiple people and departments, things inevitably turn to chaos. You have solved one problem and another problem arises somewhere else. I try to get the teams to calmer waters via the forming, storming, norming, performing method in order to eventually achieve the best results. I personally think the DISC personality test is a good help. You can use colors to see how someone with certain personality characteristics wants to be treated, which has made me much more aware, while in the past I often fought or participated in people.
I played volleyball at a high level in my youth. There I had to deal with a team full of egos. Ultimately, we managed to deal with this very well with coaching and discussions. I learned that the team is not created during the match, but during and after practice. Moreover, the substitutes are just as important as the people who are always in the spotlight. Team sport and working in project teams are very much alike."
Out of your comfort zone
Tim considers experience at very different employers to be an absolute plus. "Especially through work experience you build up a lot of knowledge and experience.
Compare it with Lego bricks: the more blocks you have, the more solutions you can build, regardless of where you end up. Every company and every assignment is a unique case. You run into all of them. If you want to improve yourself, I would say take up the challenge and try something where you are not in your comfort zone from the start."
Director New Product Introduction, Netherlands
Tel: +31 (0)6 54 23 51 31