Chapter 3 Content
Product Development and Engineering in Lean Enterprise
Ohno and Toyoda decided early that product engineering inherently encompassed both process and industrial engineering.. They formed product design teams with experts from process and industrial engineering teams. Career paths were structured so that rewards went to strong team players without regard to their function. The consequence of lean engineering was a dramatic leap in productivity, product quality and responsiveness.
Lean Production and Changing Consumer Demand
Toyota's flexible production system and its low cost and time product engineering let the company supply the product variety that buyers wanted with little cost penalty. In 1990, Toyota offered consumers around the world as many products as General Motors even though Toyota was only half of GM's size. Toyota requires only half the time and effort required by GM to design and produce a new car. So Toyota can offer twice as many vehicles with the same development budget. Japanes car makers offer as many models as all of the Western firms combined. The product variety offered by Japanese is growing where that offered by Western companies is shrinking.
Japanese on an average are producing 500,000 copies in four years, whereas western companies making 2 million copies in 10 years.
Toyota is making profit by producing only two-thirds of the life-of-the-model production volume of European specialist firms and therefore it can attack the craft-based niche producers like Aston Martin and Ferrari. American mass producers could not attack them due to insufficient volume.
Chapter 5 Designing the Car
Honda's product development process is different from that of General Motors. The Large Project Leader in charge of car development is given great power. He recruits appropriate persons from various functional departments for the life of the project.
In 1986, Professor Kim Clark of Harvard Business School undertook a world wide survey of product development activities in motor industry. Clark found that a totally new Japanese car required 1.7 million hours engineering effort on average and took forty-six months from first design to customer deliveries. By contrast, the average U.S. and European proect of comparable complexity took 3 million engineering hours and consumed sixty months. Thus the Japanese methods have a two-to-one difference in engineering effort and a saving of one-third in development time. It turns on its head one of our most common assumptions. A project can be speeded up with increase in cost and effort.
The authors say there are four basic differences between lean design and western design methods.
1. Leadership of the product design team
The lean producers invariably employ some variant of the Shusa system pioneered by Toyota (Honda terms it Large Project leader (LPL)). The Shusa is the leader of the team and his job is to design and engineer a new product and get it fully into production. In Japanese auto industry, the cars are commonly known by the Shusa's name.
In American or European companies 900 engineers are involved in a typical project over its life, but Japanese companies use only about 485 engineers. But importantly, there is little turnover in the Japanese teams. There is more turnover in American teams.
In the best Japanese lean project, the numbers of people involved are highest at the very outset. Difficult trade-offs are decided at the start stages of the project. As development proceeds, the number of people involved drops as some specialties complete the job.
4. Simultaneous Development
Example of Die development:
The die designers in Japanese projects are in direct, face to face contact with the design team and they know the number of panels to be made and approximate sizes. So they go ahead and order blocks of die steel in parallel to the design process. They even make rough cuts before the detailed design of the panels is done.
The Consequences of Lean Design in the Market Place
Lean design companies can offer a wider variety of products and replace them more frequently that mass-production competitors. The Japanese firms are using their advantage in lean systems to expand their product range rapidly, even as they renew existing products every four years. Between 1982 and 1990, they nearly doubled their product portfolio from forty-seven to eighty-four models.
Training of Engineers in Japan
All engineers including design engineers first assemble cars. At Honda, for example all entry-level engineers spend their first three months in the company working on the assembly line. The're then rotated to the marketing department for the next three months. Then they spend an year in various engineering departments - drive train, body, chassis and process machinery. Then design engineer's assignment starts in an engineering department. As a first assignment, they are assigned to a routine new-product development team. In the next assignment they may be put on a more challenging task. After this, they are given additional academic inputs and then put on advanced projects, which involve using revolutionary and advanced materials.
But Honda, asks all its engineers to spend one month in operations and ensures that even people working in advanced technologies are connected to the current demands of the market.
Japanese Became High-Tech Wonders
Not only in manufacturing, even in design practice Japanese have a gone a notch or two ahead of its Western Competitors.
Japanese bet on increase in fuel prices and made investments in small four cylinder engines. But fuel prices fell and consumers were looking for larger cars with more power. Japanese engineers made use of many known technologies to increase power of four cylinder engines. There features were: fuel injection rather than carburettors, four valves per cylinder, balance shafts in the bottom of the engine, turbochargers and superchargers. a second set of overhead cams, and even an additional set of cams. The engineers work very hard on what is known as refinement - paying attention to the smallest details of an engine design that gives better performance. Finally, attention was given to manufacturability so that complex engines work properly every time. These innovations convinced buyers in North America that Japanese cars are now high-tech. When the American producers wanted to do similar innovations, problems have cropped up.
Japanese companies are now having patents than American companies in automobiles.
So far, Japanese have not made epochal innovations. They did a brilliant scavenging process that used ideas nearly ready for the market. How will they fare in more difficult challenges? The authors concluded..
Set-based concurrent engineering
To be updated
25 Nov 2015, 20 Oct 2013