Lean Product Development & How to Use It.

Lean Product Development

Lean product development is a process of product development that began with the intention to reduce waste (material/time) and increase productivity. Thus, the company would see higher profits and the customer would benefit from greater value. Toyota was the first company to utilize this process. In 2000 they launched 14 new products, which was a greater number than Gm’s entire product line.

Toyota saw that their product development team was getting too tied up in iterations and research. Constantly developers were falling into this cycle repeatedly and they, along with the rest of the development team, were operating inefficiently. A major reason why this vicious cycle existed was because every segment of product development was operating individually. Toyota figured, “Hey, let’s have everyone work together rather than handing off jobs each time an objective was complete.” This strategy was extremely beneficial not only for the company building the product, but for the customer using it as well. 

7 Principals of Lean Development

Toyota Established 7 principles that constitute the process of how a product developer (or any business) should follow when creating a product that will deliver more value, in a shorter amount of time, all while decreasing costs.

Eliminate waste.

The cost of the product is driven by the rate at which it flows through the value stream. How can we make it flow faster? Well, by putting the product through the research and testing phase numerous times due to lack of communication, you are paying for man-hours that do not directly contribute to product development. The Toyota school of lean manufacturing defines seven wastes (Muda)
  1. Overproduction
  2. Unnecessary transportation
  3. Inventory
  4. Motion – unnecessary movement of workers
  5. Defects
  6. Over-processing – using advanced expensive tools when you can use cheap ones.
  7. Waiting – when inventory waits between value-add steps.

Build quality

This principle includes ensuring that products are made well and won’t fall apart. There are many tools your firm can utilize in lean product development to ensure a great product build.
  1. Pair programming – By combining the skills of two different designers or developers, the company is able to avoid quality issues.
  2. Test-driven development.
  3. Writing criteria for a product before actually designing a product to ensure it satisfies the customers’ needs.
  4. Incremental development and constant feedback
  5. By developing in pieces and getting feedback from users at the end of each increment, it becomes quick and easy to backpedal if a conflict arises.
  6. Minimize wait states.
  7. This means that a firm should cut out all processes that extend the development time unnecessarily. This includes a lack of focus amongst workers and knowledge gaps. Knowledge gaps are common in new workers. Having new workers is a given. By having them take a backseat role, they are able to observe and learn without slowing down the lean product development process.
  8. Automation
  9. 1. This is self-explanatory. In the lean product development process it is omnipotent to automate tedious, manual processes that are prone to human error.

Create Knowledge

This principle encourages development teams to properly document information learned from a certain process. This allows them to make their lean product development process even leaner. Below are a few ways to retain knowledge in the firm.
  1. Product reviews
  2. Documentation
  3.  Wiki
  4.  Knowledge sharing sessions
  5. Training

Defer Commitment

This does not mean you should flake and not show up – this actually means you are demonstrating responsibility by keeping all options open and collecting data rather than making uneducated guesses about a delivery time to a customer. There are multiple examples of firms taking on projects and are unsure of the business requirements to complete them. Some firms like to plan months in advance, but this is not smart. While the lean product development process is meant to be a sprint, it is not meant to return products that are of low-quality. To be quick and efficient without committing to any timeframe is to constantly be collecting and analyzing information regarding any important decisions. This way, when it comes time to make these important decisions, there is no dwelling or down-time from communication between teams.

Deliver Fast

Build a simple solution, put it in front of customers, enhance incrementally based on customer feedback. What slows product development down?
  1. Thinking too far in advance about future requirements and not focusing on the current problem to solve
  2.  Real issues and restraints that aren’t responded to with urgency
  3.  Over-engineering solutions and business requirements

Respect People

This goes without saying but is not highlighted enough. Adding value to the end customer requires tremendous teamwork.
  • Communicating consistently and effectively. By constantly filling other teams, you are able to solve a problem faster since the entire company is familiar with your scope of work.
  • Encourage questioning and variations of solutions across all teams
  •  Any work related issues are to be discussed as a team rather than individually
  •  Encourage, empower, and influencer everyone to do their absolute best.

Optimize the whole

By optimizing every single part of the lean product development operation, the probability of a vicious, time-consuming cycle halting the progress of your product massively decreases. This enables each segment of the process to focus on their value that they add to the end-user.

How to implement Lean Product Development

Lean Product development while require any outsourced horizontal company to become completely vertical. All teams must work in harmony for the process to work correctly.

First you must define the specific value that you will bring to a customer base with this new product. By combining what already exists in the market with analysis you have conducted on consumer needs and demand, you are able to make an educated solution on whether your product will sell well. Once the value factor is determined, each team within the lean product development process are able to identify what their role will be in adding this value.

The following step incorporates all parts of the product development process. Design, engineering, manufacturing, modeling, assembling, and testing all must be on the same page. The traditional development process method was for design to pass off to manufacturing for them to figure out how to them assemble the product. Once assembled, the testers were to figure out on their own how to test the product correctly. This process was extremely inefficient. That is why it is important to work with a company that vertically integrated in the entire process. From product design sketch to inventory delivery, having the same group of individuals by your side is what makes the process, “lean.”

Next you need to take a macro level look at the entire process. Doing this enables you to find steps in the process that do not contribute to the development of the product. Doing so is how firms make their process faster and cost efficient.

The next to last step in the lean product development process is to create a prototype and test it. This enables you not only to find out what your potential customer base thinks, but you are able to complete the lean development process and see how much value it added to your company.

The final step is to iterate your product. Undoubtedly, you will have to iterate. But with your newly established lean product development process, the iterations should be easily done and kept to a minimum. This final step enables you to place an inventory order with peace-of-mind and confidence knowing that you have created a quality product, in an efficient manner, that solves a problem for a group of people within society.

If you want to get the ball rolling on your idea, contact us today to see how we will apply lean product development to your product development.

About the Author
Ryan Lange

Ryan Lange is the Founder and Lead Product Designer of Persistent D&M. Ryan began his product design career developing soft good products in the outdoor industry and has since broadened his skills in 3D design, industrial design, and design engineering.

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