Apple iPod Classic and iPod Touch

本文譯自TNW「How Apple’s Top Secret Product Development Process Works」一文,作者為Matthew Panzarino。

Apple產品的研發過程,在許多方面一直都籠罩著神祕的色彩。而在一本由Adam Lashinsky撰寫的新書「Inside Apple: How America’s Most Admired–and Secretive–Company Really Works」中,揭露了這個秘密。這本書中討論了Apple這間公司的許多方面,包含Apple的哲學、員工招募過程以及傳說中的保密文化。

但是對許多人來說,Apple的產品研發過程,多年來一直有著強烈的吸引力,彷彿其作法就是公然地挑戰著大型企業的傳統。雖然在此之前,部分的資訊已經被曝光,不過對我來說,還是有許多新的東西。Lashinsky精實的巨作真的非常棒,深入了各方面的許多細節,非常值得一讀。

以下是每個Apple產品研發的框架結構……

Apple的每個產品都是源自於設計

Jonathan Ive Apple Design Studio

在Apple內,設計宛如皇室般地被禮遇著,所有的產品都遵照著設計師們的願望。對於其他公司來說,這是完全相反的狀況。設計並不是迎合著製造流程、財務預算或是生產部門,而是這一切都必須順從著由Jony Ive領導的設計部門。

Apple的設計師們與財務部門完全沒有任何的關連,並且可以使用無限制的成本,或是完全無視著素材在製造流程中使用的合理性。工業設計工作室是所有Apple產品的孕育之處,也是初次誕生的地方,並且只允許少數的Apple員工進入,包含Jonathan Ive。

「新創事業」的構成

Ipad2 poster Apple Campus

一旦新產品決定開始進行,隨後便會組成一組團隊,並且團隊將會經由保密協議被隔離在公司的其他部門之外。有時除了保密協議之外,還會加上物理性的隔離措施。大樓的部分區域可能會被封鎖或是隔離,以便讓負責敏感新專案的團隊在房間內工作。

這能有效地在公司內部創造出一種「新創事業(start-up)」的環境,而在此環境中工作的團隊已從一般大型企業的階層管理結構中脫離,僅需直接向經營團隊負責,

Apple新產品流程(Apple New Product Process ,ANPP)

Iphone speed test

當產品設計開始,ANPP就已經開始運作。ANPP是一份列出產品研發過程所有細節步驟的詳細文件。這並不是Apple原創的概念,不過在公司內最早是出現在Macintosh的研發時期。

ANPP詳細地描繪出了創造的每個階段,由誰來負責完成、每個階段將會由哪些人來進行,以及何時完成。

每星期一檢視產品

Iphone sunday icon

ET(Executive Team,經営團隊)每星期一會碰面,並檢視公司內所有正在進行中的產品。之所以能做到這點,是因為Apple一直以來都僅在同一時期內生產少數種類的產品。

任何沒有在當週被經營團隊檢視過的產品,都會被排到下週一的檢視中。也就是說,沒有任何一項產品會在超過兩週內沒有獲得關鍵決策。

EPM黑手黨

Apple Chief Executive Tim Cook speaks about the iPhone 4S at the Apple Event

一旦產品開始進入生產階段,兩位負責人將會被選出,並將產品開花結果。兩位負責人分別是Engineering Program Manager(EPM,工程專案經理)以及Global Supply Manager(GSM,全球供應鏈經理),而前者對於生產過程有著絕對的控制權,由於此絕對的權利被稱為「EPM mafia(EPM黑手黨)」。

這兩個職位都是由管理階層擔任,他們花費大量的時間在中國,以監督整個生產流程。供應經理與專案經理互相合作,但兩者之間也會有緊張的關係。在進行決策時,永遠都會基於「何者才是最有益於產品本身」。

當產品完成後,便再次進行設計、組裝與測試的流程

Ipod touch proto tinhte intro thumb 640xauto 14108

有時,會有許多版本的產品會被流出到公司外,例如從未正式發佈的iPhone。許多時候這些東西都是經由中國流出,某些部落客或是記者會付錢給工廠工人以換取原型機。不過當Apple已完成一項產品後,隨即會進行再設計,並再一次地送入生產流程中。這也解釋了我們也許會看到各種流出版本的原因。

生產流程大約為期4~6週,在最後會以工廠中負責的Apple員工們的集體會議結束。

之後,EPM帶著beta版本的裝置回到Cupertino總部。在經過檢驗並提出意見後,隨即搭機返回中國監督產品的下一個版本改良。這也代表著,產品的許多不同版本其實都已經完全完成,並非只是部分完成的原型。

對於打造新產品來說,這是一種極其昂貴的方式。不過,這就是Apple的標準。

包裝室

Apple Magic Mouse box Package

在行銷大樓內的一間房間裡,完全是用於研究裝置的包裝。包裝室的安全等級與新產品設計以及設計工作室相同。

在新iPod發售前的最後一個步驟,是由一位員工在數個月內每天花數小時的時間拆封數百盒原型。這是為了不斷地感覺,並且一再地完善開箱的體驗。

由「交通規則」控制的產品發售

Wwdc top secret apple steve jobs

產品發售的行動計畫,被稱為「交通規則(Rules of the Road)」。此為一份極密文件,記載著所有產品從研發到實際發售的明確時程。每個時程上都會註記著一位負責完成該事項的DRI(directly responsible individual,直接負責人)。

如果某人將此份文件遺失,或是洩漏給不該看到的人時,就如同文件上的註記,會立刻被Apple解雇。

 

正如同您在這些流程中所看到的,Apple經常做出讓整個過程更加昂貴、更加沒有效率的決策,僅僅是為了能夠嚴謹地生產出更好的產品。這些是不應該用股息來支付的事,不過他們依然如此地這樣做。

許多公司都過於複雜,或是過度守舊地以傳統的方法,來進行著Apple流程中的各個方面。

而Apple依然實行著簡單到誘人的責問制計畫,並且致力於「以做好產品為優先」的原則。當然,伴隨著的還有過去十年以來,Apple在財務方面宏偉地成功。

這個產品研發過程,僅僅只是Lashinsky書中的一小部分,該書目前已經透過各種形式發售。如果您是Apple或是電子製造業的學生,這本書絕對應該馬上加到您的閱讀清單中。

via How Apple’s Top Secret Product Development Process Works

Many aspects of Apple’s product development process have long been shrouded in mystery. The process is discussed in a new book Inside Apple: How America’s Most Admired–and Secretive–Company Really Works, by Adam Lashinsky, which is out now. The book talks about a variety of different aspects of Apple as a company; its philosophy, its hiring process and its legendary secrecy.

But Apple’s product process has held a strong fascination for many over the years as it defies long-held conventions about how it should work for companies as large as it is. While some of these points have been revealed before, there is much here that is new to me. Lashinsky’s compact tome, which is fantastic, goes into detail on every aspect of the process and is well worth a read.

This is the framework on which every Apple product development is hung:

Every product at Apple starts with design. Designers are treated like royalty at Apple, where the entire product conforms to their vision. This the polar opposite of the way it works at other companies. Instead of the design being beholden to the manufacturing, finance or manufacturing departments, these all conform to the will of the design department headed by Jony Ive.

Designers at Apple have literally no contact with the finance departments at all and are considered to be unlimited in terms of the costs or manufacturing practicality of the materials used. The Industrial Design studio is the womb of all Apple products. It is where they are first generated and it is only accessible to a small number of Apple employees including Jonathan Ive.

A start-up is formed. Once a new product has been decided on, a team is organized and segregated from the rest of the company by secrecy agreements and sometimes physical barriers. Sections of the building may be locked or cordoned off to make room for the teams working on a sensitive new project. This effectively creates a ‘start-up’ inside the company that is only responsible to the executive team, freeing them from the reporting structure of a big company.

Apple New Product Process (ANPP). Once the design of the product has begun, the ANPP is put into action. This is a document that sets out every step in the development process of a product in detail. It’s not an original Apple concept but was first applied at the company during the development of the Macintosh. It maps out the stages of the creation, who is responsible for completion, who will work on each stage and when they will be completed.

Products are reviewed every Monday. The ET (Executive Team) meets every Monday to go over every product that the company has in process. It is able to accomplish this because Apple has so few products in production at any given time. Any that do not get a review are rolled over to the next review Monday. This means that no product is ever more than two-weeks away from a key decision being made.

The EPM mafia. Once a product begins production, two responsible people are enlisted to bring it to fruition. The engineering program manager (EPM) and the global supply manager (GSM). The former has absolute control of the product process and is so powerful that it is referred to as the ”EPM mafia”. Both of these positions are held by executives that spend most of their time in China overseeing the production process. The supply manager and program manager collaborate, but not without tension, always making decisions based on ‘what is best for the product’.

Once a product is done, it is designed, built and tested again. At times there are leaks that display versions of a product like the iPhone that we never see released. Many times these leaks come from China, where a factory worker has been paid to hand off a prototype to a blogger or journalist. It turns out that once Apple is done building a product, it redesigns the product and sends it through the manufacturing process again, explaining the various versions we may see leaked. This is a 4-6 week process that ends with a gathering of responsible Apple employees at the factory.

The EPM then takes the beta device back to Cupertino for examination and comments, hopping right back on a plane to China to oversee the next iteration of the product. This means that many versions of any given device have beencompleted, not just partially prototyped. This is an insanely expensive way of building a new product, but it is the standard at Apple.

The packaging room. A room in the Marketing building is completely dedicated to device packaging. The security here is matched only by the sections of the building dedicated to new products and to design. At one point before a new iPod was launched there was an employee who spent hours every day for months simply opening the hundreds of box prototypes within in order to experience and refine the unboxing process.

The launch is controlled by the Rules of the Road. An action plan for the product launch is generated, called the Rules of the Road. It’s a top secret document that lists every significant milestone of a product’s development up until launch. Each milestone is annotated with a DRI (directly responsible individual) that is in charge of making that item happen. Losing or revealing this document to the wrong people results in an immediate firing, as noted in the document itself.

As you can see from the breakdown, Apple often makes decisions that make the process more expensive and less efficient in order to produce a seriously better product. These are things that shouldn’t pay nearly the dividends they do, but consistently fail to disappoint. Many companies are too complex, or too hidebound in the traditional way of doing things, to take on many, if any, aspects of Apple’s process. Still, there is an alluring simplicity to Apple’s accountability schemes and its devotion to ‘good products first’. And there is, of course, the massive financial success of the company over the past 10 years.

This product development process is just a fraction of the information revealed in Lashinsky’s book, which is available today in a variety of formats. If you’re a student of Apple or of electronics manufacturing at large then it should be added to your reading list post-haste.