By Todd Clark, Program Manager, Viant
Get a diverse group of smart people in a room and present them with a challenge. Add brainstorming and collaboration. At the end of the day, the best ideas rise to the top and breakthrough concepts emerge. That’s the magic of a Lean Production Preparation Process (3P) event.
For more than a decade, Viant teams have been leveraging Lean Product Launch techniques to improve product quality, lower cost, and speed time to market. 3P is a Lean Product Launch tool that has been particularly effective for our customers.
3P events bring stakeholders together to identify and reduce waste in every step of a process, thereby increasing efficiency, de-risking the manufacturing process, and compressing the timeline. Viant has conducted dozens of 3P events for customers ranging from tiny startups to large global corporations. This article will highlight three ways 3P events can speed products to market.
1. Aligning stakeholders for more efficient, effective decisions
3P events bring together a diverse team of 8-16 stakeholders that represent constituents from both Viant and the customer’s organization. The team could include engineers, program managers, equipment operators, equipment integrators, and subject matter experts.
The idea is to bring all constituents to the table to evaluate a range of options together—rather than serially—to make decisions more efficiently and effectively.
In a 3P event, team members use a Lean tool called set-based design to identify a set of options (rather than a single concept), gather performance data for each, and eliminate choices until the best one emerges. Having all stakeholders represented allows for efficient decision-making. This approach reduces the number of serial iterations, which reduces labor and cost, and ultimately, increases the likelihood of a product launching on time.
2. Understanding design requirements
It’s essential that team members have a common understanding of how the device functions, its intended use, and the patient impact.
In the planning stage of a 3P event, we evaluate the customer’s drawing packages, risk-based quality documentation, and assembly process information. We also ask the customer to bring device samples and a clinical simulation to educate the team. This supports our discussion of critical-to-quality characteristics (CTQs), the performance characteristics necessary to meet the needs of the end user and ensure patient/user safety.
According to one 3P participant, “The [3P] process opens your eyes to design details that need to be addressed before manufacturing.”
Understanding the product design and function plays a critical role in reducing risk and saving time and cost. Without a 3P event, design engineers would have to take the time to educate process designers on the important aspects of the product. That can be time-consuming and less efficient than working as a cross-functional team.
3. Identifying opportunities to reduce/eliminate waste
Identifying waste is at the heart of a Lean Product Launch. When we’re transferring manufacturing to Viant, we always focus on the customer’s definition of value and improving the process. The 3P event is designed to evaluate every step of the current manufacturing process to identify and eliminate waste.
Viant was engaged to transfer a dip molding process associated with the manufacture of cardiac catheters. This process had been running at the customer’s facility for more than 15 years. To prepare for the 3P event, a Viant team traveled to their facility to map the current state of the entire process. This included the cleanroom layout, equipment size and locations, component storage locations, and the movement of operators. On site and at the 3P event, the customer’s manufacturing supervisor was instrumental in injecting actual shop-floor knowledge into the mapping exercise, which we later used to identify waste in all its forms.
The team identified 36 forms of waste in the customer’s legacy process, then broke into subteams to brainstorm waste reduction solutions. Team members were able to reorganize the manufacturing process to eliminate much of the movement of staff and materials by rearranging assembly stations sequentially and creating integrated cells for discrete processes. The result was a streamlined manufacturing process that improved flow, reduced the bottleneck, and boosted efficiency.
When we’re launching new products, we have the opportunity to design a manufacturing process from the ground up, in the “least-waste way.” 3P events have a “clean slate” from which to design a scalable process in an efficient way that eliminates operator waiting time or movement, reduces cycle time, and uses one-piece flow instead of batch methodology.
At Viant, 3P is an important tool that helps us to de-risk and filter out waste throughout the Lean Product Launch process. Whether they’re launching a new product or transferring manufacturing of a legacy product, our customers have found that an investment in 3P can reap benefits including reduced waste, increased efficiency, decreased risk, and reduced time to market.
One 3P participant called the event “detailed, organized, and worthwhile” and said it “makes you dive deep into aspects of process that you would not typically think about, especially if you’re not directly involved in manufacturing.”
Another participant was pleased with the result: “Labor content was reduced by about 50% compared with expectations, which is an incredible accomplishment.”
Todd Clark has more than 10 years of experience in multiphased new product introduction (NPI) strategies and best practices in the medical device industry. He has planned and facilitated 3P Events that have reduced capital, derisked projects, and increased speed to market.
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