Should LEAN principles just be limited to the manufacturing phase ?

Pratistha Suhasini August 4, 2016

Quantifying_the_Impact_of_Collaborative_Engineering.jpg“There is a way to do it better - find it”- Thomas Alva Edison

A good percentage of R & D budgets is devoted to innovation. But, does that mean innovation has to be limited only to product development?

Traditionally speaking, yes. It has been one of the time tested approaches of discrete manufacturers to facilitate market penetration and drive competitive advantage. But, in today’s market scenario where time-cost-quality are prime movers for competitive advantage, extending innovation to optimize the triple constraints definitely holds an edge.So, undoubtedly, optimization is necessary at each stage of the product development, namely, concept development, engineering, manufacturing and after-market. Identifying and minimizing non-value added activities at each stage contributes to the optimization process. And, what better approach to reduce wastes than LEAN.

Let’s look at how this approach can impact the waste reduction at various stages of the product.

In the concept development stage…

This early design phase has great influence on the product cost. In this concept stage, non-value added activities (NVAs) could rise from challenges like:

  • Lack of understanding or insight into the customer defined values
  • Lack streamlined communication
  • Lack of access to the right resources at the right time

These can have a huge negative impact on the product features and performance. Insufficient or limited knowledge on any of the above results in developing products of compromised quality and substandard design. This means multiple reworks and prolonged schedules. It not only impacts the project delivery but also results in customer’s late entry to market, where they lose out on the first mover advantage.

LEAN in concept development can impact both the design as well as the process. Implementation of lean would mean cost effective, simplified and robust designs, optimized process through elimination of NVAs and open communication and better collaboration across teams.

computer_breakdown.jpgIn the engineering stage…

This stage clearly marks evolution of the product from concept to prototype. This essentially tests the feasibility of the concept design to be manufactured into a commercially viable product. It takes into account various factors and the associated risks. The overall aim of this phase is to minimize the technical risks associated with developing and manufacturing the product.

However, various factors could amount to a lot of NVAs that further the risk, such as:

  • Complex product design and custom or redundant parts
  • Lack of standardization in parts and process
  • Lack of continuity in information flow
  • Lack of cross functional communication
  • Multiple data platforms and unnecessary data conversion

LEAN implementation in the engineering stage would mean usage of modular and standard parts to reduce design complexity, enable reuse, identifying failure risks and modifying design for profitable manufacturing and optimized costs. Standardization of process, data, tools  and a common standardized channel for procuring product information would ensure streamlined communication and effective collaboration between engineering and manufacturing; reducing risks and failure.

In the manufacturing stage…manufacturing_automation.jpg

This is the final stage before a product reaches the market. The agility, efficiency and productivity of this stage contribute to the cost, time to market, quality and competitive advantage of a product. In order to optimize manufacturing, the following wastes need to be checked and prevented from amounting to NVAs.  

  • Incompatible design for manufacturing
  • Failure to estimate the quantity and over production
  • Multiple vendors and lack of supplier collaboration
  • Lack of standard process
  • Lack of communication

Implementing LEAN principles in manufacturing has been one of the most profitable and proven strategies for optimizing costs and resources.  Lean manufacturing identifies the wastes in the manufacturing process and enables optimization. It minimizes inventory, improves agility, and enables better collaboration in supply chain, thereby resulting in supply chain optimization. This keeps the manufacturing costs which in turn facilitates competitive pricing.

In the aftermarket stage...

In the present day world, this stage witnesses competition never seen before. With advent of breakthrough technology, globalization has turned the aftermarket space into a battle ground. Cost effective and efficient after-market strategies translate to huge profits and revenue growth for manufacturers. The factors that can lead to NVAs could be:bwiglobalization1.jpg

  • Lack of effective supplier collaboration
  • Lack of efficient/proactive failure detection mechanism
  • Lack of serviceability

LEAN implementation at this stage would build a holistic system that enables an efficient service model through agility and improved communication, builds customer satisfaction by providing better service quality and keeps the costs in check through effective distribution.

So, LEAN is no longer limited just to the manufacturing stage and the principles are finding new buyers in various stages of product development.

Another version of this blog was published on on May 02, 2017 as "Cloud manufacturing software reviews lean manufacturing principles in all processes"

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Topics Business Transformation Lean Manufacturing