Product Development Processes

I have twenty years experience in product development process development. Through the late 80’s and 90’s, I participated in the development of General Motor’s Global Vehicle Development Process. More recently, I was the executive leader for value stream mapping the locomotive product development process to reduce customer order lead time in half.

In the four business situations where Lean Production Launch was implemented, it energized the organizations to apply the same lean principles to their product development processes and program management approach.

Here are some lean product development insights from these experiences.

A point based environment

Lean Production Launch has been implemented in companies that use more traditional point based engineering of their products. In this product development paradigm, milestones or gates attempt to force sequential closure on activities like requirements, design alternative selection, validation, procurement and first build events. The use of dynamic integration maximizes response to issues that happen between milestones.

A set based environment

It turns out that Lean Production Launch is even better suited to a set-based design and a knowledge based environment. This type of environment is explained well in the book, Product Development for the Lean Enterprise by Michael N. Kennedy (2003). This book explains the product development
value stream used by Toyota as reported by an extensive study done by the National Center for Manufacturing Sciences (NCMS). In this paradigm, requirements and design alternative selections are made later in the program timeline. The reason Lean Production Launch would work well here is its extensive use of dynamic integration for all activities

Production launch is a subset of product development

In all situations, production launch gets rolled into the product development process. Many companies neglect to acknowledge this fact until they become proficient at production launch. For a better view of how production launch fits into product development and product life cycle, see the Product Lifecycle Management Matrix developed by the Society of Manufacturing Engineers, Product Lifecycle Management technical group. I was one of the authors of this matrix. Click here for a link with download capability.

Value stream mapping a product development process

There is no shortage of books and experts to help you implement lean product development yet so many of those efforts end with less than remarkable results. Value stream mapping of a product development process is a rigorous way of getting those results but it involves considerable effort and commitment. This approach is recommended by Morgan and Liker in The Toyota Product Development System (2006).

If your company is interested in trying this or learning more about the approach, please contact me. In 2004, I was the executive team leader for developing GM’s Electro-Motive Division ‘s highly revised product development process to shorten customer lead times in half. Using value stream mapping as the center piece of the project, almost every part of the organization participated. The project was successful.