Nicole Plender started working as a Cross-Functional Project Manager at NTS Development & Engineering (D&E) in 2019. She is involved in a complex project in which very diverse disciplines of NTS work together: the next step in the development of the pick-and-place machines for an important strategic customer. NTS has been developing these machines for about 20 years. Nicole’s main challenge is coordinating the project and making sure everything goes smoothly.
"I have been working for NTS since April 1st, 2019," says Nicole. "I am involved in project management here. What I do, among other things, is: taking care of internal and external interests, defining the scope and outlining the planning, risks and costs. I am constantly setting priorities.”
Continuous development requires involvement of various disciplines
“Together with, among others, my colleague Erald Schipper, I work on a project for a customer who uses our pick-and-place machine. I took over the project from another project manager and started after the technical route was declared feasible by our Development & Engineering (D&E) department. After that, our colleagues at Systems Assembly built two prototypes. Accordingly, NTS Shanghai has built another four prototypes under guidance of our division Systems Assembly, Mechatronics Eindhoven. This was the first project during which industrialisation was performed directly in Shanghai by D&E and in which Mechatronics was involved in an advising role.
Using everyone’s qualities
“’Having people do what they are good at’. To me this is an aim that not only concerns individuals but also all parties involved. Within this project all of NTS’ competences are fully used: the manufacturing speed and proto experience of Systems Assembly, the precision and perfection of Mechatronics and the process set up of Shanghai. This requires a lot of information transfer between the various teams on site. Although to a customer this might seem to be unnecessary overhead, this way of working ensures that all expertise is used and an efficient way of working is guaranteed. These organisations are specifically equipped for what they do and knowledge can be obtained in an early stage which results in a reduction of risks. To me the main challenge lies in directing the information transfer and having the right discussions and setting the right priorities. The final goal is to make sure customers have such a good experience that it makes them want to return to NTS. We have a joint responsibility to realise that.”
One Product Creating Process
“Within NTS we work with One PCP (product creating process). Various phases have been defined to achieve the main goal. There are several deliverables and tools that support this process and ensure that costs, planning and risks are made transparent. Currently One-PCP is still being optimised and implemented at other NTS-divisions. This will make future collaboration easier.”
Room for optimisation and input
“Besides managing projects, all project managers are involved in optimising the way we do our work. We, for instance, attend monthly knowledge sharing sessions during which cases are shared, based on situations that colleagues are dealing with. We then have a brainstorm. There is room for coming up with new ideas and alternatives concerning practicing your profession. Besides this, each project manager is owner of an improvement program aimed at process/ deliverable optimisation and knowledge sharing. In this way you also frequently collaborate with other project managers while normally you would not likely be involved in a project together.”
A flowchart script runs in my head
What I like about my role is its diversity. Pragmatic thinking makes me happy as well as setting priorities step by step. In this, I see a parallel with the physics study I completed in which you have a Matlab script that contains ‘IF ELSE’. A flowchart script runs in my head and I like to analyse and optimise the steps."
Protecting internal and external interests
“The challenge is in maintaining control and keeping an overview. The fact that I have a certain understanding of technology and of what the engineers are doing and what they are dealing with, helps. What is much more difficult is stakeholder management, it causes a varied dynamic. Not a single project is the same, a suitable approach that matches our PCP process, is defined based on the size and complexity of the project and the needs of the customers. This requires a flexible approach for each project and it is a daily recurring challenge to realise and maintain this. My aim is to achieve both internal as external satisfaction as I find it important that customers return, but also that internal interests are protected."