“Basically, lean is [focused on] creating more value with less work.” – Wikipedia, Lean Manufacturing
No matter who can be credited with making this statement, I have to thank him or her. This statement allows people to apply lean principles in broader circumstances than manufacturing. Following this idea, I’d like to define lean product development (LPD) as this: LPD is focused on developing more products better and with use of fewer resources. To be more specific, LPD contains the following three major elements, in my view:
1. Productivity in product development. Productivity is composed of two aspects: 1) individual productivity designers, engineers, and other product development parties need to reduce waste (e.g., time and effort) in their individual tasks; and 2) collaboration productivity product stakeholders need to reduce waste (e.g., waiting time and rejections) in product development collaborations.
2. Product development process optimization. Doing things faster doesn’t necessarily mean doing things better. Productivity is more significant when the entire product development process is optimized so each party knows when and how to participate in order to maximize resource use.
3. Product sustainability. The above two aspects focus on product development activities and processes themselves, while the third one is about the quality of the results. Product developers face two groups of “customers” those who use development outputs in manufacturing and the subsequent service processes, and those who finally purchase and use the developed and manufactured products. Hence, good product development not only means low product cost, good manufacturability, good serviceability, and so on, but also high acceptance from the market.
Looking at the three aspects above, it is quite natural to link product lifecycle management (PLM) and LPD together since there are significant commonalities between the two. However, I have to say that PLM doesn’t necessarily mean lean.
If we look at PLM from the methodology perspective, I believe that PLM can help a lot toward achieving LPD goals. However, if we look at PLM as a system, the situation might be somewhat different. Different vendors may incorporate different foci in developing their PLM solutions; software functionality may vary from solution to solution; or seemingly the same functionality may have different depths and be implemented differently. All these imply that if your goal is to achieve LPD through PLM adoption, the PLM solution you select should be able to support your LPD initiatives; different lean approaches and priorities may result in different selections of PLM solutions.
In order to locate the PLM solution that best suits your requirement to become lean, you need to study how PLM solutions support LPD. The following is my rough list of areas you need to look into:
With this list in mind as I write future blog posts, I’ll choose a few PLM vendors and investigate what each of them can offer to your lean initiatives. Stay tuned.
Some thoughts about lean Bill of Material Management. Good discussion and comments. http://plmtwine.com/2009/10/20/bom-overstructured-understructured-or-lean/
Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this topic.
It is key to look at your processes first. After your processes are nailed, THEN you should work to leverage tools such as PLM to take process efficiency to the next level. Additional risk can be reduced by choosing to implement a PLM solution that has the flexibility to allow on the fly process adjustments without a team of software consultants.
I think, the biggest risk is to believe process will resolve problem of data management. BOM is an example of situation where data synchronization is killing business processes around.
Oleg and Adam, thanks for your excellent inputs. In my personal view, process and technology are the two plies of a tightly twisted yarn - neither of them should be missing.
Oleg, thanks for sharing your lean BOM article. Otherwise, I would miss those valuable discussions. This may raise a question - should comments (at least those with high value) be pushed by RSS as well? I have the subscription to your blogs so I read your lean BOM post when it came out, but had you not mentioned it today, I would not see all the subsequent knowledge exchange.
Kurt, My blog is WordPress online. As far as I know, if you are subscribed to comments when you comment, you will get RSS… Best, Oleg