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Unique Industries Continue to Share and Learn from their Common Challenges: Fall 2017 LPPD Learning Group Activity


The Lean Enterprise Institute (LEI) organized the second Lean Product and Process Development (LPPD) Learning Group event of 2017, which brought together the diverse industries of sub-sea robotics, appliances, consumer electronics, automotive research, contemporary furniture and medicine.

The 40-plus representatives of seven partner companies were hosted by leading audio and electronics engineering company and fellow Learning Group member Bose Corporation on Day One in Framingham, MA. Day Two took participants to MIT’s D-Lab and LEI’s headquarters in Cambridge, MA. Each organization once again came prepared to discuss challenges in product and Process development for their new products and services. The agenda was customized before the event using a Process with input from LPPD coaches and key contacts from the Learning Group partners.

The LPPD initiative was formed to work with and bring together forward-thinking organizations to accelerate the spread of lean thinking and practice in product and Process development across very diverse industries. The organizations that met in the Boston area are co-learning partners in the LPPD Learning Group with the purpose of transforming their product and Process development systems by changing the way new value is created. A valuable aspect of the Learning Group is the ability for each of the organizations to come together and meet twice a year, with one of the group members acting as the host. The majority of content is created by each of the Learning Group members, as they are sharing what they have learned from their LPPD experiences.

Bose leadership welcomed the Learning Group to their Framingham headquarters with LEI’s LPPD Senior Advisor Jim Morgan. Bose designs and develops leading audio systems, as well as other technologies. Bose shared their history as well as hands-on demonstrations of their latest products. Afterwards, LEI’s LPPD Program Manager Eric Ethington, led the group introductions. Participants came from a large cross-section of locations, including as far away as Brazil and Scotland.

Learning and Sharing Topics over the Two Days Included:

Hackathon for Idea Generation and Fast Learning Cycles

One learning partner shared its experience with hosting and using hackathons for generating innovative ideas. The hackathon is a non-stop, 30-hour event around a specific theme with elements of hardware and software development.

The Organizational Lean Journey and LPPD

Another Learning Group member shared the company’s efforts with regard to lean transformation and the connection to LPPD. Two product development value stream mapping (PDVSM) projects were introduced.

PDVSM and Improving the New Process Design work

A healthcare partner shared their experience with successfully using PDVSM and applying the LPPD principles within their industry. Over the past several months they have been actively experimenting with chief engineer, obeya space, concept paper, set-based learning, design reviews, and other LPPD enablers as they test their future state design.

Tour and Dinner at LEI Office with Jim Womack Discussion

At the end of Day One, Learning Group members had an opportunity to tour and share dinner at LEI’s offices in Cambridge before a special discussion with Jim Womack, founder of LEI. Jim shared his unique insights and thoughts on LPPD and its importance within organizations. Jim also reflected that it has been twenty-seven years since the book The Machine That Changed The World was first published. In that book Jim and his co-authors and researchers first coined the term “lean” with regard to enterprise, manufacturing, etc.

MIT D-Lab Overview

On Day Two, Learning Group members provided an overview of the history and work of the D-Lab program, including the mission and values. D-Lab was founded in 2002 as a program focused on the development, design, and dissemination of appropriate technologies for international development. The mission pursues efforts in three areas: courses, research, and innovation practice. There was sharing of many examples of the successful low-cost, high-impact products that have come out of D-Lab for end-users.

MIT D-Lab Design of Water Filter Project Discussion

One of the lead researchers at D-Lab described the challenge of a joint D-Lab and MIT Mechanical Engineering Department project to design a water filter for Northern India, as well as developing countries. The researcher described early challenges and concepts with the different alternative designs. Several learning partners offered suggestions for improving the designs.

Discussion with Eric Buehrens, CEO of LEI

The Learning Group also had a discussion with Eric Buehrens, the new CEO of LEI. Eric participated in the LPPD learning event and shared his early exposure to lean thinking and practice from Jim Womack and Dan Jones in his previous industry, healthcare. Eric stressed that lean is a socio-technical system to help the organization grow stronger.

Using Actual Operational Cost to Drive Change

Participants listened to another member share the focus areas for innovation in their development teams at that organization. An example was shared with one project on costing concept that studied engineering work at an activity level.

Knowledge Capture and Sharing

Another member spoke about the challenge of sharing the emerging LPPD knowledge in a global organization in a simple, yet effective manner. This company is experimenting with a website that currently is categorized into twelve areas for LPPD, including chief engineer, obeya, A3, concept paper, set-based concurrent engineering, and more. The site was demonstrated “live” for the participants. John Shook, LEI’s chairman, helped lead a discussion on what the other organizations were using internally.

Go & See Activities in the LPPD Gemba

Consistent with all Learning Group sessions, the host companies provided tours of several ongoing experiments related to the engineering Gemba over the two days. These included:

  • Rapid Prototype Facility
  • Research & Development (R&D) Area and Test Laboratories
  • Product Development value stream Mapping (PDVSM) Project Team Room
  • obeya Visual Management Space for Engineering Team
  • D-Lab Workshop Space
  • D-Lab Product Areas

Individual Organization & Group Reflection with LEI LPPD Coaches

Each organization was given time at the end of the event to reflect with their fellow employees along with their lead LEI LPPD coach. Company teams were given a template to help organize their thoughts. After this, each team was given an allotment of time to share their reflection with everyone.

Wrap-Up & Closing Remarks, LEI LPPD Summit 2018

After thanking attendees for their participation, Jim Morgan made the exciting announcement that LEI will be holding its inaugural LPPD Summit on June 19 & 20, 2018 in Traverse City, MI. More information will be provided in the near future.

Eric Ethington and Jim Morgan provided the closing remarks before members adjourned. The next Learning Group meeting is tentatively scheduled for Spring 2018 at a location TBD.

For more information on the LPPD Learning Group, please visit https://www.lean.org/leanpd/.

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