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Optimising NPD in SMEs: a best practice approach

Nick Leithold (Department of Business Administration, University of Applied Sciences Jena, Jena, Germany)
Tino Woschke (Department of Business Administration, University of Applied Sciences Jena, Jena, Germany)
Heiko Haase (Department of Business Administration, University of Applied Sciences Jena, Jena, Germany)
Jan Kratzer (Faculty of Economics and Management, Technische Universität Berlin, Berlin, Germany)

Benchmarking: An International Journal

ISSN: 1463-5771

Article publication date: 1 February 2016




This study analyses new product development (NPD) processes of small- and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The purpose of this paper is to find successful innovation processes of SMEs on the one hand, and to reveal starting points to further improve these processes on the other.


Data were gathered from 49 semi-structured, face-to-face interviews with German firms. From the total of 49 cases, the authors identified three manufacturing SMEs with high-performing innovation processes, whose NPD processes the authors took as best practice examples. The authors then used the design structure matrix to map these three NPD processes, and optimised the sequence by applying an optimisation algorithm.


The authors determined which activities could be done sequentially, in parallel, or overlapping. The authors also scrutinised the position of dynamic milestones and demonstrated that the best-performing SMEs had flexible NPD processes, which allowed for an accelerated innovation process.

Research limitations/implications

Due to the qualitative design of the investigation, the research presented was not specifically designed to draw statistical generalisations. For this reason, the results may not be applicable to all SMEs.

Practical implications

The authors recommend that SMEs uncouple activities as much as possible. In this regard, the findings revealed that that especially technical and economic activities may be conducted in parallel due to their low dependence.


The paper offers an SME-specific NPD process to optimise the innovation performance. Moreover, the findings deliver new knowledge on how the best-performing SMEs innovate.



Leithold, N., Woschke, T., Haase, H. and Kratzer, J. (2016), "Optimising NPD in SMEs: a best practice approach", Benchmarking: An International Journal, Vol. 23 No. 1, pp. 262-284.



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Copyright © 2016, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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