LEAN Product Development (LPD)

ABSTRACT – LEAN principles

The LEAN methodology is a systematic approach to identifying and eliminating waste through continuous improvement. The purpose of LEAN is to produce more with fewer resources by eliminating waste. The LEAN methodology is derived from the organization strategy and its goal is to supply value added to the customer.

The definition of value added is:

  • Something for which the customer is willing to pay
  • It changes the product or the information
  • It is done right at the first time

The main technique of the LEAN philosophy is to establish a continuous flow from suppliers through the internal organizations to the final customer. This paper will show that by implementing LPD practices during the development process, leads to:

  • Supplying a product that meets the needs of the customer.
  • Shortening the development and production cycle times.
  • Reducing the development and production costs.

Applying LEAN principles in product development

Implementing LEAN in production is relatively easy because the product is tangible and the flow is visible. You can detect waste from: over production, inventories of work in process, defects, movement of products and people, and so on. In the development environment, it is similar, but instead of dealing with products and manufacturing flow, we deal with engineering data creation and flow. The problem is that it is difficult to see the data, because it is buried in the documents, computers, but most of it is invisible because it exists inside people minds.

In a project that requires interfacing with other external systems and a number of sub-systems which may be designed by different functional departments; the most important project information is hidden in the interfaces among all those domains, (figure 1). This information will be revealed only if all the parties of those domains integrate in a structured way and analyze the project, (LPD Workshop). If not, this information will surface later during design / production in an uncontrolled manner, generating errors and defects, which will cause schedule delays, rework, or even the re-development of projects.

LPD Workshop

The workshop is a concentrated effort of selected team members focused to achieve a step function of engineering data creation and flow, which can be utilized during all stages of the product development life cycle. The most effective phase for implementing the workshop is in the initial phase of product development. In this phase there is not enough information, but the most important development decisions have to be made. The purpose of the workshop is to increase the fidelity and understanding of information so that the right decision can be made in a timely manner.

 The workshop has three components: (Figure 2)

  • Multidisciplinary Integrated Product Team (IPT)
  • LPD tools relevant to the workshop
  • Workshop facilitator

There are dozens of LPD tools that can be applied during the workshop. A great deal of experience is required to identify the combination of effective tools needed for the specific workshop.

The workshop starts by documenting the reality of the current situation, using a combination of LPD tools. The role of the facilitator is to ask the right questions in order to build the true picture of the project. The next step is to identify the waste and the opportunities by applying the brainstorming technique. The final stage of the workshop is preparing a “to do list” of corrective actions, improvements, responsibilities and a time table.

The results and outcome of this workshop are:

  • Templates for capturing new data and information
  • A focus on value creating activities
  • New insights into the development process
  • Real time reallocation and synchronization of activities
  • Team identity and emotional commitment
  • Common language among team members
  • To do list identifying new corrective actions

About a month after the workshop, there must be a follow up meeting to verify that the corrective actions have been taken and the workshop target has been achieved. The workshop success is dependent on the implementation of those corrective actions. It is the project manager role to monitor and document progress.

Integrated Product Team) IPT) Workshop

The first step of implementing LPD is building the Integrated Product Team (IPT). The IPT is defined as:

  • A multidisciplinary team
  • Accountable for the product / assignment
  • Team co-located (optional)
  • There is a documented agreement that summarizes team accountability

This is the most important workshop, and some times the most difficult. Participants are from different functional departments and are not use to teaming and working together. It is hard to move from your comfort zone and work with new team members. The team members have to learn to work under two bosses; the functional department manager, and the project manager or the IPT team leader. Each team member has to understand their role on the team, and what product his function has to supply to the team. This working together mechanism, IPT, enables the free flow of information inside the project among the team members and outside between the functional departments and the project team. 

Development plan Workshops

In the development plan workshop, all the team members that participate in the project development activities must attend. In this workshop the team members from the functional departments together build the product development activities on a calendar time table, project plan.  

During the development plan workshop, it is easy to identify the lack of requirements and a configuration that is not well defined. Also, a lack of communication and responsibilities for various functions become evident. All this information is documented on a “to do list” and the team decides on corrective action for implementation.

The outcome of the workshop is a development plan with a realistic time table which is agreed upon and committed to by the entire team. 

In addition, by participating and working together in building the development plan, the participants transition from individuals to a cohesive and productive team. The team members assume responsibility and accountability; which is the main driver for project success.

Quality Function Deployment) QFD) Workshop

One of the main reasons of delays in product development is the waiting for information, data, and requirements. The cause of this delay is in the deployment process of the requirement, from the customer need down to the detailed design.

The QFD workshops enables the team to understand the customer needs and translate those needs into detailed requirements in a more efficient and fast way. QFD also enables us to develop the requirements and allocate them to the development teams at the very beginning of the project. It eliminates the non-value added time of sitting and waiting for information. The workshop dramatically shortens the time from project kick off to the start the engineering process. The QFD workshop reduces the time frame of understanding requirements from a few months to a few days. 

Cost reduction Workshop

Usually during the product development life cycle, product cost increases above the target cost.  This leads to a high final product cost, which in turn lowers the profit and sometimes creates losses. In order to maintain the product cost at the target cost, (or lower), we have to apply the Design to Cost (DTC), methodology. If the cost exceeds the target cost, we have to apply a cost reduction workshop, using the DFMA (Design for Manufacturing & Assembly), methodology. In this workshop the team challenges not only the number of parts or the complexity of the design, but also the:

  • Requirements
  • Architecture
  • Technology
  • Reuse
  • Build

Through a brainstorming technique, the team develops creative ideas for cost reduction to meet target cost. The outcome of the workshop is a list of ideas that leads to a significant product cost reduction. Typically, teams achieve about 60% cost reduction before the PDR, and 30% during the detailed design phase.     

Applying a workshop to a specific project

The workshop can be applied at any point of the development life cycle. However, the most effective phase is in the early stage of design.

Before conducting the workshop, there must be preparation meetings with the project manager and the workshop facilitator to verify the following:

  • Understanding project situation / problems.
  • Determining the workshop targets and verifying that the targets can be achieved within the time frame of the workshop.  
  • Selecting the LPD tools that will be applied during the workshop.
  • Determining material that has to be prepared for the workshop.
  • Leveling expectations between the project manager and the facilitator.  
  • Selecting workshop team members and workshop time table.


In today’s environment, each of the development team members is tied to his computer.  Therefore, organizations need a mechanism for gathering all cross-functional team members together in a methodological way to enable them to work as a team.

After facilitating more than 600 LPD workshops, I am convinced of the efficacy of this methodology. The project team will achieve their target goals in a fast and effective manner rather than the wasteful and time consuming traditional method.

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