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Lean Product and Process Development Group Update: Leading Companies Share and Learn from Common Challenges


How decisions made during product development can reduce aluminum and steel scrap in production was one of the critical issues discussed among product developers at a meeting of diverse industries that included sub-sea robotics, appliances, consumer electronics, automotive research, contemporary furniture, and drilling equipment.

The 40-plus executives, engineers, and managers represented the six partner companies in the Lean Product and Process Development (LPPD) Learning Group organized by the nonprofit Lean Enterprise Institute (LEI). They were hosted at a periodic meeting in July 2018 by leading automaker and fellow Learning Group member Honda R&D Americas in Raymond, OH. Each organization arrived prepared to discuss challenges in product and process development for new products and services. The agenda was customized before the event using a process with input from LPPD coaches and key contacts from 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 LPPD Learning Group companies that met in Ohio seek to transform their product and process development systems by changing the way new value is created.

Valuable benefits of Learning Group membership include two annual meetings, hosted on a rotating basis by a group company. Learning Group members, who share at the meeting what they have learned from their LPPD experiences, create most of the content.

Honda R&D Americas leadership welcomed the Learning Group to their technical center (above), along with opening remarks from LEI’s LPPD Senior Advisor Jim Morgan. Honda designs, develops, and builds four of the top 10 vehicles sold in the U.S.  Honda has been in Ohio for 35 years and sold over 34 million vehicles during that time that were built in the state. 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. Learning and sharing topics over the two days Included:

R&D Effectiveness and Efficiency Activities

One learning partner shared the experience of using visual management to improve end-to-end processes while linking to the overall management system. This built problem-solving capability among associates, while they studied key value and cost characteristics.

Lean Journey and LPPD First Steps

Another company new to the LPPD group shared the organization’s positive efforts with regard to lean transformation over many years and the connection upstream to LPPD efforts.

Critical Events as Part of the LPPD System

Another partner shared their experiments with critical events as part of their new product development process.  These events will help reduce risk, improve attainment targets, and enable moving from gate-driven to milestone-driven process for new product development.

Evolution of Scanning within LPPD

Next, a partner shared their experience with using 3-D scanning technology to re-create the digital space. They are using scanning for fixture design, tooling qualification, equipment assessments, reverse engineering, and part qualification. This has helped support the time reduction between developing a part and being able to check the physical part to the original design.

Sustainability and Design Efficiency in Development

Katrina Appell, LEI LPPD coach, discussed the increasing interest and importance of sustainable design.  With 25% of all steel and 40% of aluminum currently scrapped as it makes its way through a product’s operational value stream, there is tremendous opportunity to make a positive impact, starting with decisions made during the development cycle.  Katrina will be looking for opportunities to experiment with Learning Group members in this area in the near future. 

Manufacturing Readiness Levels

Another partner introduced how they are experimenting with improving process development milestones and quality of event criteria with manufacturing readiness levels (MRLs). The goal of MRLs is to measure the process readiness after a key build event and to better link product and process development. Morgan (below) talked about focusing on early indicators for MRLs and stressed the competitive advantage that is possible when you not only develop a great product but when you have a lean process to make and deliver it to satisfy your customers. 

Transition to Make-to-Order Product

Two engineers from Brazil shared the past 2.5 years of activity with LPPD for their product. The product functionalities were split into modules with standard interfaces, with a goal to move toward make-to-order (MTO). Pre-engineered product architecture with a configurator tool now allows for high variety. The team has experimented with many of the LPPD enablers, including concept paper, chief engineer, visual management /obeya, set-based concurrent engineering, and prototyping/trade-off curves.

Go and See Activities

LPPD members head to the factory floor at the East Liberty plant

Consistent with all Learning Group meetings, Honda R&D Americas provided tours of several ongoing experiments related to the engineering gemba over the two days. These included:

  • East Liberty Assembly Plant with CRV, RDX, and MDX model production
  • Process automation to support the engineering value-add work
  • Full-scale digital visualization for prototyping and crash simulation
  • Software validation obeya and management system
  • R&D obeya and management system
  • Vehicle showcase of top Honda and Acura models

An LPPD member checks out an NSX V6 turbo with all-wheel drive at the R&D center

Individual Organization & Group Reflection with LEI LPPD Coaches

Each organization was given time at the end of the event to reflect on their product development transformations with their fellow employees and an 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. 

LPPD Summit 2019

After thanking the attendees for their participation and Honda R&D Americas for hosting, Jim Morgan made the announcement that LEI will hold the second annual LPPD Summit on June 28-30, 2019, in Traverse City, MI.

Ethington and Morgan provided the closing remarks before members adjourned. The next Learning Group meeting is scheduled for November 2018 in Houston.

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