Lean Engineering: a lever to improve the development of new products, their industrialization and their regular production.

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While initially Lean appeared in the production workshops, it has gradually experienced a deployment to other functions of the company, like R&D. This is the case of Toyota, one of its less known competitive advantages lies in the Lean character of its new product development process.


Philip Marris' point of view regargding Lean engineering, founder and Managing Director of Marris Consulting, Lean practitioner for more than 20 years.


"Lean Engineering" makes "good" products


One of the keys to good health and performance of an industrial company is often its ability to launch regularly and quickly good new products or good new product versions. But on what criteria or characteristics are we based to qualify a good product or "Lean Inside" product?

  • They are easily manufactured: the time between the first series and the stabilized production is short, they do not present any incompatibility with the existing means of production, they are excellent the first time,
  • They are reliable while presenting the expected functionalities: the launches are made on the planned date, without skid on development costs and without loss of functionalities compared to those desired by the customer,
  • They are immediately reliable: the purchase of the first models can be done without fear while in the case of a "non-Lean" industrial company, these products have significant problems of reliability, performance or functionality. 


The key benefits of  "Lean Engineering"


The amazing results obtained by the companies that industrialize their products according to the Lean engineering approach come from actions on:

  • a design that predetermines the major part - 75% - of the cost and quality of a product throughout its life: once a product has been launched, there are only a few levers of progress, mainly in production, 
  • a process of development far from being optimized: many simple good practices, especially in Western companies, are not fully implemented, the fault of a relative weakness of managerial efficiency,
  • a frontier between research and development that is not mastered: research, in the sense of trying solutions, continues during development / industrialization, with the result of many round trips during this process, therefore costs, in time and money, are penalizing the final quality of the product.


Launching only  "Lean Inside" products ensure they won't disrupt the production, commercial network or after-sales services. While production units often succeed in their "lean" approach, they continue to undergo every launch of new products: impossibility to manufacture, not taken into account of the capacity of resources, unsuccessful nomenclatures, increase of the variety of components without real reason, ...

Thus, when applying Lean Engineering, the product reliability is more about the way it is developped than the  way it is produced.


The Lean Engineering as a reproduction of Lean Manufacturing in projects


The philosophy is the same, the tools different. Lean Engineering or Lean Product Development (LPD) is actually the application of the principles of Lean Manufacturing to R&D, the Design Office and Methods.

The challenges remain the same: how to apply the approach when you do not make cars? How to adapt it to the culture of my company and my country? What should be reproduced or not from the Toyota system?

To reassure companies who already have a Lean Manufacturing experience, Lean Product Development requires the same basics. Having already reinforced the weight of the field approach in its production management, and integrated the importance of hunting losses, these companies will have less difficulty to do the same with their developers.


1. Managerial efficiency as inescapable

Companies that have persevered in Lean Manufacturing will not be surprised to see that the essence of Lean Product Development is to make the individual and collective management evolve and to develop new behaviors.

One of the changes is the introduction of project managers with very broad responsibilities, ranging from the definition of the customer need to the beginning of the life of the product. These key men do not decide on technical options, but devote their energies to creating consensus around the choices to be made, and are therefore driven to be true managers. They encourage developers to generate real trade-off curves and then argue on this basis, and do not behave as engineers or experts.

This transformation faces multiple barriers such as the lack of managerial skills of these populations or the lack of requirements in terms of meeting the deadlines, specifications and budget of a project stage. 


2. Using simple but powerful techniques

Regarding the use of resources, Lean Product Development leads to a bit the opposite of what is usually done. Indeed, Front Loading by mobilizing a maximum of resources at the beginning of the project, is almost the opposite of the caricature of the poorly managed project and the practices often found in some companies.

Schema Time to Market Lean product development En

Methodologically, Lean Product Development uses simple tools and techniques like "Visible Planning" which aims at improving, by more than 50%, the efficiency of the project management process by the visual sharing of information about tasks and their sequence through post-it ™. This is also a way to introduce continuous improvement in project management and to track "Mudas" (added losses) such as the delay in starting a task due to lack of input data.


3. The "Knowledge" or knowledge management at the heart of the approach

One of the keys to the success of projects, permitting to reduce the development cycle or to avoid technical dead ends, is to systematically list all possible and impossible approaches to achieve a functional specification. It is necessary to record and archive, in a knowledge base, what works and does not work, then to be able to find a solution to a problem or study that has previously shown a non-feasibility.

This organization of the experience acquired during previous projects must also allow the company to run several alternatives per project, both in terms of design and functionality. This so-called "Feed Forward" approach, gives companies the opportunity to delay their decision on a solution while securing that there is at least one operational solution at the end of the project.

While this knowledge management theme seems obvious, it is still in its infancy in many companies, including those whose project management is the heart of their business.


Lean engineering : results beyond expectations 


Lean Engineering or Lean Product Development gives or reinforces the competitive advantages of the companies that apply it:

  • manufacturable products whose "Ramp-up" in production (time between the first of series and  the stabilized, in rhythm and quality, production) takes place in less than two weeks,
  • a "Time To Market" of half that of competitors,
  • a strong but controlled creativity based on a capitalization of know-how and experiences from previous projects.

Download the article (Fr) "Lean Engineering"

Lean engineering consulting: let our experts help you achieve maximum efficiency in product development


As operational excellence experts, Marris Consulting supports companies wishing to improve their efficiency in product development and offers Lean engineering consulting services. With over 25 years of experience working with organizations worldwide, our Lean consultants provide a bespoke approach to help your company become more innovative and competitive, based on your corporate culture and language.

Your people do not need to be Lean experts to be able to apply the right tools to product development: our teams cater for your unique, individual circumstances and provide you with simple, effective and sustainable tools to implement Lean engineering.

The benefits of Lean are numerous when using methods that are approved and adapted to your operating environment to implement it: our operational excellence consultants support your teams in developing systems and processes to address the specific challenges that they experience and to help your company achieve its vision and goals for the future.

For more information about our Lean product development consulting services, please do not hesitate to contact our teams.

About Marris Consulting

Marris Consulting is an industry consulting and training company specialized in the Theory of Constraints (ToC) and Critical Chain Project Management. We focus on improving the performance of manufacturing and process industries by using Constraints Management combined with Lean and Six Sigma. To boost project performance, we also use Critical Chain Project Management (CCPM), which we sometimes combine with Lean Engineering. Our 2-day performance audits, our performance consulting services and our project management, Lean, ToC & CCPM training by our industry consultants offer a wide range of solutions to help our clients around the world reach the highest possible levels of performance.

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