Extensive Lean Product Development Process Overview

Lean product development refers to a lean approach that meet the dynamics and challenges of product development process notably:

  • High development costs
  • Need for innovative solutions
  • Many redevelopment cycles
  • High production costs
  • Long production cycle

Toyota Company began their journey with this process at Toyoda Loom Works. Toyota understood that in order to build a car, they required knowledge which was later discovered through experiments and this happened to be the start of Toyotas creation(of the lean systems) they have today.

Extensive Lean Product Development Process Overview

The Steps 

  • Learn the LPD principles in more depth.  Not to be self serving, but accessing an experienced trainer can make a large difference. Reading the Toyota product dvpt. System by Jeff Liker and Jim Morgan can help you understand the LPD concept well. It’s the most comprehensive material that covers the LPD as a system.
  • Select a pilot project-It must be a project that is representative of the kinds of projects that you do today & will have a noticeable-impact or results on your organization. It must also have a strong team and a core leader who are more willing to experiment and learn with lean product development.

Conduct a value stream mapping-session on the whole project by:

  • Selecting a past project (preferably a similar project) to help you understand the current-state of product development process.
  • Based on the opportunities or wastes found in the current-state map, identify the LPD practices and principles that will address the causal reason of the problems found.
  • Draw the future state-map by incorporating the LPD practices. This will be the high-level project plan for your pilot project
  • Create the action plan and make sure that the pilot-project will be capable of implementing the LPD best practices at the right-time and during the project
  • Implement visual management with your project team- The big room (Obeya) is a proven approach to visualize the maturity of the product, highlight issues, and visualize the flow of your project. Team should conduct stand up meetings by` walking the walls’ periodically and make use of it to collaborate and solve any emerging problems.
  • Apply A3 thinking-As problems come up during the project process….either through Obeya or any other means, this must spur the LPD cycle. The perfect way for leaders and their teams to approach this is by use of A3 problem solving.

Principles of Lean Product Development

If the principles of LPD are applied and implemented well, they may help in value addition to products or goods for the client, increasing the competitiveness of the organization.

Some of the principles of LPD include:

  • A systems, holistic approach to products development-The simple elements of product development system i.e. people, processes & technology are fully aligned, designed and integrated to be mutually supportive. Intelligently, organized and highly skilled people are the core impetus of product development system. Processes are designed and structured to maximize the capacity of its users and to minimize any waste. Technology must be solution focused, right sized, and selected to facilitate the performance of its user and the process.

When these fundamental elements of the system are combined, they become coherent making it possible to create a synergistic system effect. For this process to realize the set result and target, other imperative functions that are within the firm should also be aligned.

A first approach to the product development that is imbedded to the customer-Internalizing principle acts as the link that build a seamless-integration between both fundamental system elements and the functional specialties. The customer philosophy leads to an understanding of customer importance and value which happens to be the first approach toward any process of product development. All system players should understand the customer defined values from the start.

To be able to deliver value to a customer, product development process should come up with a product layout that’s capable of effective and efficient production and a product layout that meets the customer needs.

A front loaded process-Early engineering rigor, designed-in counter measures and problem solving, along with a cross functional participation, are the key element to maximizing the efficiency and effectiveness of product development process. Additionally, by effectively and efficiently segregating this inherently `noisy’ phase of product development process away from the execution stage, Toyota was able to minimize any downstream variation that used to feature in the development process. This is very crucial to both quality and speed

Built-in learning and continuous improvement-Learning and continuous improvement approaches are fundamental elements of every job that is done, rather than a special-corporate initiative. Toyota for instance was able to attain this by coming up with increasingly rigorous and detailed performance goals for each project and by reflection or Hansai (holding of both real time and post mortem learning events) that motivate functional expertise to update and validate their own data bases of knowledge. Learning and continuous improvement also encompasses a problem solving approach that builds multiple potential solutions & focuses on the root cause counter measures that are designed to stop any future recurrence.

Synchronize processes for simultaneous execution-Effective concurrent engineering truly requires that every subsequent process should maximize the importance of any stable information or content that is available from previous process as it become accessible. That’s to say, product development teams should do their level best with that part of the layout data that would not change. Otherwise, operating with any early data require longer time duration and may result in tremendous wastage than a lean development process. Each product development processes functions are designed to simultaneously move forward as it builds around a stable network of data. This approach can also be referred to_simultaneous execution.

Use rigorous standardization to build strategic flexibility-This paradox was the approach of Toyota’s efficiency and quality by generating more predictable timing and quality results. This principle includes tools and concepts such as common architecture, standard processes and reusability. It’s imperative in driving out any waste from the development process. In fact, designed standards, standard processes and standardized skills allow for flexible product development capabilities, JIT human resource approach, specific program customization, broader realm of individual responsibility and other system benefits.

Go to source engineering- In these days of high technical engineering its tempting for engineering specialists to equally divide their own time between their cubicles and conference rooms hence an engineer’s action should include spending most of his time pre programming at manufacturing dealerships and plants, by personally fitting portions on prototype, or by working on tear downs. These principles form the basis of a recognized system that’s to product development.

Last but not least LPD systems have proven to bring a competitive advantage to many companies and it’s designed to continually improve its already formidable capacity. A system that considers the fundamental implications of the lean product development capacity on the welfare and health of consumer focused organizations, we can’t afford to ignore.


Mark is the Lead Author & Editor of Spectechular Blog. Mark established the Spectechular blog to create a source for news and discussion about some of the issues, challenges, news, and ideas relating to Product Management.