James Morgan, Ph.D, is a senior advisor for lean product and process development at the Lean Enterprise Institute. A former global director of Body Exterior, Safety, and Stamping Engineering at Ford, Morgan is a two-time recipient of the Shingo Research Award and co-author with Jeffrey Liker of The Toyota Product Development System (Productivity Press, 2006). He has developed and taught graduate courses on both lean manufacturing and product development and shares insights from his work in this month’s Q&A.
How does cross-functional planning contribute to an organization being lean and ‘green’?
Morgan: An important lean principle that helps improve cross-functional planning in the development process is “compatibility before completion,” and it is a critical part of lean product and process development (LPPD). This is the practice of building compatibility checks into your development process to ensure that designs are compatible with all system requirements right from the start.
These requirements often include interdependent parts, manufacturing requirements, quality, serviceability, and of course, environmental impact. And these requirements must be met before moving forward in the process to production.
It’s about moving beyond just a focus on “how do we complete this project on time and on budget” to “how do we align our individual processes and systems to create the best product—in fact, [best] total value stream—possible.” And it’s about collaboration, not siloed work. It results in minimizing the rework of late changes, reducing workload, and shortening overall lead-time. This creates less waste and optimizes your value stream—and that means less impact on the environment.
You recently toured Toyota headquarters in Japan to learn more about how the company is adapting and improving their LPPD Systems. How are they applying LPPD to meet their environmental goals?
Morgan: Jeff Liker and I spent about a week at Toyota HQ, their test facilities, engineering center and manufacturing plants. Toyota’s commitment to the environment shows up throughout the organization. Waste of any kind is abhorrent to them, it is part of their DNA so to speak. Whether it’s in smaller projects like reusing old Prius batteries for power storage in their facilities or massive, long-term projects like the Mirai fuel cell vehicle and working with various governments to create a “hydrogen powered society,” Toyota is constantly thinking green from the start and taking a total-value-stream approach to protecting and improving the environment.
A more typical example I saw during our visit to Toyota was how they went about their effort to reduce vehicle weight to increase fuel efficiency. The interesting thing at Toyota is not just that they’re making lighter vehicles but their standard process for doing it. One of the typical ways to reduce weight is to utilize thinner, high strength steels. By doing this, companies are able to not only reduce the individual part’s weight, but often reduce the number of parts required. The problem with this strategy is that these materials often have to be formed in a superheated state that requires enormous gas-fired ovens that work in very large batches and require loads of time to heat the material. This process also produces an oxide residue on the parts which must be shot-blasted off after forming.
None of this was acceptable to Toyota. So design engineers, manufacturing engineers and suppliers collaborated in order to deliver both a lighter, more fuel efficient vehicle and a much better value stream. The result was not only a better product, but a remarkable joule heating process that requires only two meters of space instead of more than 30, can heat [sheet] material one blank at a time in five to 10 seconds instead of huge batches, delivers a two-thirds reduction in CO2, and does not produce any residue and needs no extra operations.
I think this is an excellent example is what LPPD is all about: cross-functional collaboration, learning, and innovating product and process development to deliver solutions that maximize value to the customer and the environment.