This Week’s Topic:
Time To Shoot The Engineers...
Topic: The words "Lean Product Development" may suggest simply applying well-known Lean tools to another part of the enterprise. However, nothing could be further from reality. Read how this exciting technology can dramatically improve your ability to bring high quality products to market on-time and on-budget.
Insight: An old-school engineering manager used to have a sign prominently displayed in his office that read:
"There comes a time in every program where you have to shoot the engineers and go into production."
Unfortunately, most of us have been involved in new product development programs that run exactly this way. A program that starts out with lofty objectives and a logical schedule invariably begins to have unforeseen problems. Prototypes fail which requires expensive "loopbacks" to design. Product requirements change affecting specifications. Costs mount up and schedules slip. Manufacturing works with incomplete information but is pressured to make up for lost time. Suppliers do not get final drawings in time to ramp up their output. Finally, out of frustration, management mandates that the product must go into production. Often this leads to high quality costs as warranty problems develop.
The emerging technology of Lean Product Development is the way to break this paradym. Like so many Lean methodologies, the principles were developed by Toyota. But the approach is very different than just applying traditional tools such as Value Stream Mapping, analysis of Value Added, and so on. Lean Product Development requires a radical re-thinking of the way development programs are structured and executed.
One of the keys is defining a role commonly translated called "Chief Engineer" - although the title can change by organization. This is strong leader/mentor with the technical and business skills to guide the program through a series of integrating events. The organization must develop a new approach to apply research and testing resources to fill-in gaps of knowledge rather than building endless prototypes and testing to failure. Systems must be developed to capture and maintain performance data so it can be reused instead of being reinvented.
Even with this short introduction it should be clear that Lean Product Development is a revolutionary approach. However, the pay-off of being able to predictable deliver a steady stream of high quality, new products that are on-time and on-budget makes it a compelling technology. If you'd like to learn more, please visit our website and navigate to the section on Lean Product Development.
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