Masterclass on ‘Best-in-class product development with Lean’

On September 13, Dennis Pelkman and Wil van Mil gave a masterclass for external customers on “Best-in-class product development with Lean”. The masterclass was organized by Industry Consulting, part of Philips Engineering Solutions. During the masterclass, Dennis and Wil discussed how Lean principles are applied in product development and gave practical examples. They shared both introductory tools and advanced concepts and also showed how to set-up a Lean innovation deployment program.

Participant quotes

“A comprehensive overview of Lean for development that really stimulates you to think about what Lean could do for you”
Hans Ketelaars, Managing Director, Neways

“Practical approach to everyday challenges; eye-opener!”
Ludo Hellebrekers, Director, Wageningen Bioveterinary Research [v/h CVI]

Five key takeaways

1. Driving force for Lean development: customer needs and competition

Product and technology cycles are shortening, while competition is increasing from various sides. Key to success in today’s development world is the ability to develop better products and services that generate more profitable growth, and to get them faster on the market (than competition) at lower overall development costs. And “better” does not just refer to performance. Better products and services also mean good quality, high reliability and fulfilling customer needs.

2. Lean product development does not equal Lean manufacturing

The differences between Lean product development and Lean manufacturing are caused by the different nature of these activities. In product development, cycle time is much longer and – unlike manufacturing – variation is an inherent part of the process. Lean started in the 1950s in Japan. In the 1990s, Lean concepts were introduced to the Western world in a book called The machine that changed the world. Although Lean was primarily perceived at that time as a manufacturing tool and approach, some principles were already applied in product development. These new ideas were picked up in the Western world, where they became associated with terms such as “concurrent engineering”, “one-room approach”, “integral project leader”, etc. At the turn of the 21st century, a study showed that Toyota – by applying Lean principles – was able to introduce twice as many new car models as their peers using only half the resources. This kick-started new interest in Lean for the area of product development. New concepts were introduced, such as “set-based engineering”, “knowledge-based development” and “rapid learning cycles”.

Lean product development uses various Lean manufacturing methods, like Value Stream Mapping, but also has some development-specific methods, for instance:

  • Critical Question Mapping: a method used at the front end of innovation, where there are many unknowns. Instead of looking for decisions, the method focuses on constructing a structure of questions to be asked. The aim is to reframe strategic issues in a way that enhances creativity.
  • Set-Based Engineering: a way to address unplanned design loopbacks, which are a major cause of planning overruns. The method focusses on quickly closing key knowledge gaps, and thereby eliminating weak solutions.
  • Lean Scheduling: a decision-based planning method. Four planning levels (from the entire overall project down to day-by-day activities) are planned and managed in a structured and visual way. Lean Scheduling applies a scrum-like method to increase team interaction. This leads to high milestone adherence.

3. Lean is a holistic approach

Lean is a holistic approach that addresses individual people, teams, competences, mindset, processes, etc.

  • Lean starts with people – working in teams – possessing expertise and problem-solving skills, and applying them according to a continuous improvement mindset.
  • Lean works towards processes that are standardized, customer- and value focused, managed in short cycles and that flow undisturbed and in cadence with each other.
  • Lean organizations have clear purpose and strategic alignment at every level, with Lean Leadership in which managers are coaches and stimulate improvement initiatives.

4. Different development contexts require different Lean methodologies

Various Lean-related, improvement methodologies exist. Ones that are well known in innovation are Design for Six Sigma, Agile and Lean Startup. In our view, the context of your organization determines which you could best apply when. In the masterclass presentation, an example was given in which the different methodologies were blended for one project: Lean Startup as the overall methodology to develop the business model and the overall system requirements; Lean for hardware, and Agile for software development. There are two ways to start with Lean development.

Lean transformation

A Lean transformation requires a structured approach and a well-defined change method. Philips successfully applies a five-phase approach for deploying Lean in organizations (see figure). In those five phases, four pillars need to be addressed to ensure successful change and deployment. The pillars are:

  1. People & teams to develop Lean behaviors
  2. Improvement projects to realize breakthrough improvements
  3. Lean Leadership development to ensure management commitment
  4. Lean support system to build Lean knowledge and experience

Lean small scale

Lean improvement can, however, also be initially implemented on a small scale. Some examples that companies can start with are:

  • Do a Lean maturity assessment based upon our Lean maturity model
  • Hold a Value Stream Mapping workshop
  • Set up improvement teams for applying structured problem solving (A3 method)
  • Introduce a Lean Scheduling or Critical Question Mapping method

5. Likelihood of Lean deployment success much higher with expert/Sensei (teacher) support

Along with a structured approach, sufficient resources are required. People will need time to learn the new methods and mindset and start applying them. Advanced support – in the form of a Lean expert with fresh eyes and insights that help challenge leadership teams and guide transformation – also makes a great contribution to deployment success.

Read more about our Development productivity service in our Industry consulting key area of expertise or check out our Design for Excellence topic page.

More participant quotes

“This masterclass is the leanest way of learning about Lean development.”
Dirk van Dijk, Manager Innovation Partnerships, LambWeston

“An interesting port of Lean manufacturing to Lean product development”
Cas Schalkx, Product Manager, CM Telecom

“Short starter or refresher with respect to Lean as a business strategy, and especially Lean in development. Provides practical takeaways you can start with start directly”
Stijn Welsing, CEO, Holland Water & Dairy Company

“High-quality speakers, good level and good office facilities”
COO, Agis

“A perfect opportunity to learn and share knowledge between companies on product development tools and methods with Lean. It widens the view on Lean and was a good platform for good discussions afterwards”
Operational Solutions Consultant, AkzoNobel

“I’m happy to have learned about the ‘translation’ of Lean for manufacturing to apply to product development – which I wasn’t aware of before”
Scrum Master