Designing Lean

Last update: December 26th 2008
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From cure to design

The word LEAN has long been systematically associated to "Manufacturing", reducing the global concept to something suitable only for shop floor or plants, solely for production. Hence, Lean deployement is most often used as a response to problems or in the search for better performances in an existing system, as a "cure".

With production having long paid efforts to Lean, next opportunities of savings will be found elsewhere, upstreams in the early stages of product and process design.

Designing LEAN

Prior to any development, it is mandatory to check the client's expectations, as designing functions or characteristics nobody wants/cares is a kind of waste. Waste elimination is main target for Lean, the very core of it. So hunting waste from design stage finds naturally its place in a Lean deployment program.

Two ways to go:

  • Designing robust and flawless solutions, so that products and/or services do not disapoint customers, not even with minor malfunctions and so that it is no rework or replacements, scrap are necessary, as this only raise costs and hence lowers the profit.

  • Designing to manufacture (or to service) in order to prevent latter wastes related to early bad choices.

    The vocie of the customer

    Fierce competition requires new innovative offers, but economically sustainable ones.

    Designing while listening to the voice of customer allow to better meet customers' expectations, actual and future, leading the competition.

    The voice of the customer appeared in the best years of Total Quality Management (TQM), with the efforts to align the product features with customers expectations. Any feature not meeting the expectation should be considered as non-quality.

    The voice of the customer regained interest with Lean Thinking, which first statement is "identifying what makes value for customers".

    Third and latest approach advertising the voice of customer is Six Sigma, especially in early desing stage "Design for Six Sigma" (DFSS) .

  • Author, Chris HOHMANN is managing partner, in charge of Lean & Supply Chain practice in a international consultancy firm.

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