Lean Methodology and Applications for CAD Professionals

    Posted by 3DxBlog Team on Jun 17, 2013 8:54:00 AM

    Toyota Concept Car DesignDo your design teams work in long, complicated production cycles, or iterative ones that view development piece by piece and deliver product into consumers’ hands faster? 

    If your answer is the former, you may be missing out on an opportunity to work smarter and faster—without working harder—than your competition.

    How? By shifting to Lean workflows and processes. 

    What is Lean Methodology? 

    Lean methodology stems from the manufacturing industry’s Lean manufacturing principle, made popular by the Toyota Production System (TPS).

    “Originally called ‘just-in-time production’ ... the main objectives of the TPS are to design out overburden and inconsistency, and to eliminate waste.” It is this concept that drove automaker Toyota to the forefront of global competition, and the methodology is now applied more broadly. 

    For example, over a 12-month period in testing Lean, the BBC Worldwide Webmedia Department improved engineering practices, stabilized its team and enhanced employee skills. However, employees did not have to increase the size, complexity or volume of their contributions to reap these results. In fact, these inputs were reduced thanks to Lean methodology in practice.

    Lean has proven its power outside the manufacturing floor—most famously in software development—but the ideals and methodology are sweeping the globe in many industries as a way to out-perform the competition.

    According to the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE), “Lean thinking is important because it can reduce error rates to one per million units. It has been shown to have the potential to at least double the productivity of both manufacturing and service organizations. It also significantly reduces the time taken to deliver new products while substantially reducing cost.” 

    By viewing your team’s design and engineering process as a continuous “Build-Measure-Learn Feedback Loop,” your aim is to cut the total time through this cycle, and get a ready-to-manufacture product onto the production floor faster.

    Getting Started with Lean 

    There are technologies and tools you can put in place to help, but truly reconfiguring your teams with a Lean mindset and methodology requires a total commitment, from process updates to HR training.

    Think it’s too much of a challenge to take on? Even organizations in the public sector are jumping on the Lean bandwagon, adopting practices they’ve seen successful in the private sector to get more output despite reduced funding.

    For example, the Swedish Migration Board identified Lean as a model to improve its work, and has reaped dramatic results, such as reducing handling time for asylum case time by almost 70%. The Migration Board credits small test/pilot programs with proving the validity of Lean and spreading the methodology across the entire organization.

    Following suit, the Södertälje Municipality, another Swedish public service organization, also adopted Lean to reap benefits from employee empowerment to waste elimination. Says Ulla-Marie Hellenberg, the organization’s director: “Lean is a mindset—a philosophy that must be embraced throughout an organization for it to work. It's not a cost reduction program; it's a very human way of working because it puts the focus on the employees to continuously improve their work.”

    A CAD Pro’s Lean Toolkit 

    Interested? Here are some stellar resources to help you learn more about Lean methodology, how it can apply to your processes, and help you get started on your path to going lean:

    Is your company using Lean principles? What benefits have you seen since implementation?

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    Image courtesy of Johnny Ainsworth via Flickr

    Tags: Engineering, Productivity