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Lean product and process development


Companies that make this mistake either believe that the development of new products and processes must inevitably unstructured and "creative" processes (and hence not easily adaptable to the principles and tools of Lean Thinking) or that it can be structured but it must be organized as a job-shop or as a one-off, never-repeatable project organization.

Instead, product development processes are also conceivable as value streams, whose goal is not to develop new products, but to develop profitable operational value streams.

Lean product and process development is based on two fundamental pillars: a) the process is driven by the end customer, and b) the principles of Lean Thinking are applied to it. Specifically, it entails: a) creating a flow of activities with the least amount of interruption, b) standardizing design/planning to reduce variation, create flexibility and render the results predictable (henshû kaihatsu – modularity – and henshû sekkei – variety reduction program), using visual management tools (barashi and visible planning) to align information and behaviours.

Many product development processes are often "out of control" with consequent waste, delays, defects, “extra budgets” and problems for industrial and end customers. Lean product and process development can countermeasure these problems, as it emphasizes richer and more systematic generation of reusable knowledge based. From the organizational point of view, the new product development process in the lean perspective is characterized by four key aspects:

1. Individual entrepreneurship and leadership in projects, namely, the need for a chief engineer who drives the value stream, guarantees customer orientation and undertakes interfunctional and supplier integration, according to a parallel and not a functional approach (of interest is the use of obeya – large rooms in which all the actors of the process come together from the earliest stages of the development for the purpose of coordination).

2. The contribution of multidisciplinary teams, each composed of experts with great technical competencies.

3. Set Based Concurrent Engineering, namely, an option-based approach that, instead of trying to freeze alternatives immediately and design to specifications, defines upfront a small feasible set of design options selecting them iteratively for example modelling design trade-offs according to the updated information coming from the customer and the tests.

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