Article Series: Increase Hardware Development Productivity by 400% – Introduction

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We’d like to talk about some of the things that have helped WIKISPEED become an adaptable, highly distributed automotive manufacturer. There’s so much material to cover that we will need to make a series of posts to cover it all. So watch for new article announcements. In this series of articles we will explore using agile tools and methods to increase productivity in hardware and manufacturing. Our goal is to give an introduction on how hardware development can be Agile in the same way that software has done for years. Articles will include topics such as: Scrum, Lean Manufacturing, Modularity, Test Driven Development(TDD), Extreme Programming (XP), and more. We’ll leave the topics somewhat open so that we can respond to your feedback.


Team WIKISPEED uses proven methods developed by the fastest-moving Agile development teams to make hardware development fast with high quality. In contrast to traditional manufacturing teams, who follow a sequential path, gathering requirements, designing the solution, building the solution, testing the solution, and only then delivering the solution, Team WIKISPEED follows the model of Agile development teams, compressing the entire development cycle into one-week “Sprints.” We produce a working, though not necessarily complete, product increment each Sprint. We iterate the entire car every seven days, meaning that every seven days we reevaluate each part of the car and reinvent the highest-priority aspects to achieve continuous improvement. This process enables a completely different pace of development. It also makes progress more predictable and improves overall quality by subjecting the car to constant testing and immediate customer feedback.

Using these techniques Team WIKISPEED experienced a 1000% increase in velocity, producing the first SGT01 in just three months compared to the three year development cycle of traditional car manufacturers. John Deere increased velocity by 820% when they introduced Agile practices to their development teams.

What does that mean to a business? Reduced risk! The ability to rapidly iterate decreases exposure to risk by making failure small and tolerable. In today’s competitive marketplace, being overly conservative virtually assures that the competition will overtake those companies who have not arranged themselves to experiment at the very edges. It is those very edges that contain the most value, but they are also highly uncertain. Iterative development combined with other Agile methods and tools allow companies to explore those uncertain areas with safety.

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