Improving product development performance through iteration front-loading

Hilda C. Martinez Leon, Jennifer A. Farris, Geert Letens

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Iteration is a central issue in the management of product development (PD) projects. Iteration is often recognized as a major cause of increased PD lead time and cost, a key driver of schedule risk, and a primary source of uncertainties in the commitment of resources. However, iteration, when planned and managed effectively, can also be used to overcome the uncertainties inherent in interdependent development activities, and to thereby improve and accelerate PD projects. In this paper, we present a methodology that engineering managers can use to identify process architectures which may provide more effectively structured iterations. The methodology determines the suggested process architecture by first eliminating any unbeneficial iterative loops, if they exist, through the application of existing design structure matrix methods, and, then, by front-loading iterations in organizing the other loops through the application of a group formation algorithm. To evaluate the effectiveness of our proposed method, we compare its performance with that of other partitioning and sequencing algorithms also concerned with the ordering of activities within iterative blocks, and also evaluate its performance when used in conjunction with these other algorithms. Specifically, we apply these methods to four examples and use simulation modeling to evaluate the performance of the process architectures suggested by the different methods. Based on the four initial examples, it does appear that our methodology has significant potential to improve the management of PD projects with uncertain iterations by supporting systematic loop pattern explorations and front-loading. Study limitations and areas for future research are also discussed.

Original languageEnglish
Article number6392240
Pages (from-to)552-565
Number of pages14
JournalIEEE Transactions on Engineering Management
Issue number3
StatePublished - 2013


  • Design structure matrix (DSM)
  • front-loading
  • iteration management
  • process architecture
  • product development (PD)
  • project performance
  • simulation


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