By Hubert Smits

A couple of months ago I talked about Scrum4HW™ to a local user group. Lots of interest, good discussions, and several people from industry attended. One of the people, working in the manufacturing space, made an important remark when I talked about a six to nine year cycle to get a new car model on the road. “It isn’t the design of the car that takes six years,” he said. “We can do that in a year. But to align supply chain and manufacturing, that takes the other five years.”

Cross-Functional Team in Scrum for Hardware

It says in the Scrum Guide, “Delivery Teams are cross-functional, with all of the skills as a team necessary to create a product Increment.” This means that a Scrum Delivery Team not only has design engineers (for electronics and mechanics), but also people who work in the supply chain or manufacturing space. Once those skills and interests are represented during development of a new product, “Twice the Product in Half the Time™” really can happen.

I have two examples to share with you:

The first occurred in the rLoop team developing battery packs. Inside a pack, the battery material is enclosed in heat dissipation material. That heat dissipation layer was developed, and the designer created a clever production process using only an electric heater and a kitchen vacuum sealer. Another volunteer produced 300 of the heat dissipation layers. Half of those were too thick, and the battery packs couldn’t hold them. A waste of time and money. Had a manufacturing expert been involved, tests would have been developed for the volunteers so this mistake wouldn’t have been made.
Another client was used to spending three to four years developing new banking equipment. Hand-offs made it hard to find problems until very late in the project – problems that were often only solvable by redesigning parts of the equipment. The redesigns were the cause of the long project duration. After considering the cross-functional concept and bringing the right people into the development team, they delivered the next piece of equipment in four months!
I believe that two things are happening when the right people are on a team: problems are found earlier and both a problem-finder and a problem-solver are part of the same team. Finding a problem early makes it easier to solve it. In a four-year project cycle, the people working in the first year aren’t readily available to solve a problem that is found in the last year. Teams need to go for the win: there is no them-and-us; we are all here to win! So a problem found by the supply chain person is taken on by the whole team, it isn’t just his/her problem.

Ken Schwaber stated, “Scrum is simple, not easy.” The above isn’t easy – people can be spread out over the globe, and products can be complex and big. However, as Einstein said, “No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.” Work on the challenge to create a cross-functional team in your Scrum4HW™ project, and it will pay off!

Go Deeper:

rloop: rLoop is a non-profit, crowd-sourced online think tank, competing in the SpaceX Hyperloop competition. rLoop is comprised of over 300 members representing more than 15 countries. Rebecca Zhou is one their members and she spoke at the Scrum Alliance Scrum4HW Track in San Diego April 2017.

Ken Schwaber: Ken co-developed the Scrum process with Jeff Sutherland in the early 1990s to help organizations struggling with complex development projects. One of the signatories to the Agile Manifesto in 2001, he subsequently founded the Agile Alliance and Scrum Alliance. He is the founder of