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Compact teams as a backbone of effective R&D in CAREL


Compact teams as a backbone of effective R&D in CAREL

CAREL, an Italian HVAC-R started its Lean Product Development Journey back in 2009. One of the highlights of CAREL’s lean product development are so called compact teams; teams of 4 to 5 employees, responsible for one project from start to finish. Continue reading to get more insights in CAREL’s evolution from traditional to compact teams and find out how this affected their product development effectiveness.

CarelCAREL is one of the world’s leaders in control solutions for air-conditioning, refrigeration, heating, and systems for humidification and evaporative cooling. CAREL prides itself as the company with a mission is to bring energy savings and reduce the impact of machinery and systems on the environment.

In 2007-2009, during the global economic crisis many companies were facing the challenge to remain competitive, but CAREL kept growing. This growth meant that leadership was required to find a solution, effective and flexible enough, to support that growth. They found the answer in the Lean Product Development approach.

In 2009 CAREL embarked on their lean product development journey to support their continued growth and streamline their development processes. One of the three efforts of 2009 was reshaping the R&D teams (the other two were “new organization” and “PDCA”). These are called Compact Teams.

CAREL introduced the compact teams as a result of an internal research about the efficiency of the company’s multifunctional teams.What is a Compact Team Before 2009, teams typically had around 15 to 20 members that were engaged in several different projects at the same time. Most of the team members were specialists in a single area (e.g. sensors, water treatment systems, power solutions, etc.), which means that most team members had only a few responsibilities in each project. CAREL analyzed different teams and ran a Pareto analysis which revealed that 4 to 5 team members did around 80% of all the work involved in a project, while the remaining 10 to 15 members only contributed around 20%. These findings drove CAREL to change its project team structure in order to improve its efficiency and reliability. To rationalize the organization, CAREL decided to break down the remaining 20% of the tasks and distribute them amongst the 4 to 5 employees that were already doing 80% of the work involved in a certain project.

CAREL achieved this through heavily investing in the areas of training and skills improvement called the transition from “I-model” to “T-model”. This means that besides their core competence, each team member now has two additional competencies, but is now solely dedicated to a single project. The highly specialized competences were set-up as an expert workforce and represent a separate axis from where the skills get pulled into the project(s) as needed. Therefore, the expert workforce is not part of any project as such, but their services can be requested by any project.

CAREL T-Model Teams

The difference between I-model and T-model teams in CAREL

The implementation of compact teams had a significant positive effect on project delays, as shown in the figure below. Eight projects were delivered on time where compact teams were employed compared to two projects before. Moreover, only one project was delayed by approx. 40%, while projects with standard teams were continuously delayed by 60%, 80%, 100% and even more.


Comparing the number of projects delayed and the scale of delay of standard teams vs compact teams

Book 2017 - Mockup 01 (small-900px)

CAREL’s Best Practices are presented and described on more than 25 pages in the Lean Product Development Best Practices book. CAREL’s chapter is only one out of the 10 chapters presenting the real-world application of lean product development in multinational companies.

The hard copy of the book with the 10 cases is available for only 74.99 EUR.


CAREL’s Lean Product Development case is available digitally free of charge to our members.


Not a member yet? Join the Lean Innovation Community!


About the Authors

Lean Analytics Association

Matic has over 5 years of experience in working with global organizations from various industrial sectors, either leading or supporting the development and introduction of bespoke lean innovation and new product development solutions. Over the past years, Matic has co-developed a framework to enable better, faster and more integrated innovation across the entire value chain, enabling companies to maximize their innovation capability and deliver truly customer-centric products and services, while minimizing the risk of market failure.

Matic is a certified Service Design Thinking Facilitator, and the creator of the Set-Based Integrated Innovation Business Game co-developed with a multinational Swiss company. He completed his Master’s degree in Global Product Development and Management at Cranfield University in 2012.

Matic is a co-author of the Lean Product Development Best Practices book, and several journal and conference publications. He regularly appears as a speaker and workshop holder at various lean, product development and innovation conferences.

CAREL Industries

Alberto Rosso is a Lean Change Agent at CAREL Industries since 2007 after a very useful experience abroad working 3 years in the United States as ERP Manager.

He is also a Master Trainer in Lean Management and has a vast experience deploying tools and impacting behaviors, working on leadership styles and applying change management approaches cross-functionally.

Now his main focus is in New Product Development, Innovation process, Road mapping.

Lean Analytics Association

Dr. Flores has over 20 years of experience collaborating as an internal or external consultant in different manufacturing and services organizations, leading several initiatives related to Lean Thinking, Business Process Improvement, Six Sigma, Supply Chain, Change Management, Open Innovation, Digital Transformation and Human Centered Service Design; providing also training and coaching.

She is co-founder and president of the Lean Analytics Association (LAA) and visiting scholar at the College of Management of the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland.

She carried out her Post-doc at EPFL collaborating at the Lean Product and Process (LeanPPD) FP7 European project from 2009 to 2013. She completed her PhD in 2006 at the Politecnico di Milano studying Open Innovation Models to enable industry-university collaboration for innovation. She obtained her Master’s Degree in Manufacturing Systems in 1999 and a Bachelor’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering from Monterrey Tec (ITESM) in 1996.

Myrna Flores
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