How much of a role does the history and evolution of lean manufacturing play in the context of product development?

How much of a role does the history and evolution of lean manufacturing play in the context of product development?

How the History and Evolution of Lean Manufacturing Shaped Product Development πŸ“š

Ever wondered how lean manufacturing and its evolution play into the context of product development? An interesting one, indeed, all because, well, it’s huge!

This journey takes us through the terrain of empirical process control and its modern manufacturing burst to its historical roots, all the way back to the philosophies of Heraclitus in 600 BC. πŸ§­πŸ“œ

But let’s start with the most recent terminology, ‘ lean manufacturing’, in the context of product development. We know this type of development goes back through the ages but really came into being in the late 40s and early 50s in car manufacturing, Toyota, for example, where the standardising of the way of working was formulated. This became known as the “Toyota Way.

Simply put, the Toyota Way means identifying value and understanding what value actually means. Once this is achieved, the next step is mapping the value chain, which involves working out how that ‘value’ is created.

Considering all these factors, it really boils down to ‘lean manufacturing’ being all about making processes flow.

Lean Manufacturing: A Driving Force in Today’s Agile World

The role that lean manufacturing has played in history is transformative. Over time, it has greatly influenced our approach to managing complexity in product development, setting the foundations for what we now know as Agile practices.

Lean manufacturing is a philosophy focused on minimising waste – this includes time, resources, or any element that does not add value to the final product. This is achieved by continuously identifying and eliminating non-value-adding activities in design, production, supply chain management, and dealing with customers.

At its core, lean manufacturing is about doing more with less. It’s about finding creative ways to maximise output while minimising input – using the least amount of work to achieve the greatest results. Once this state of minimum information and maximum output is completed, the objective is to strive for perfection – eliminating all forms of waste entirely.

The term ‘lean’ implies a reduction – a paring down to the essentials. Originating from the manufacturing world, ‘lean’ has become a fundamental principle in all sectors where efficiency, productivity, and profitability matter. It’s about streamlining processes, simplifying workflows, and eliminating any element that doesn’t contribute to the end value.

In many of my professional courses, I underscore the importance of ‘lean‘ principles. They have become pivotal in the current landscape of product development, playing an integral role in enhancing efficiency, speeding up processes, and improving overall output. Understanding and implementing ‘lean’ is no longer a luxury but necessary for any organisation that wishes to thrive in today’s fast-paced, competitive markets.

In essence, ‘lean’ is more than just a manufacturing methodology – it’s a mindset of continuous improvement, constant learning, and relentless pursuit of perfection. So, if you’re seeking to optimise your processes and drive innovation, mastering lean manufacturing principles is a great place to start.

Experience and Inference

Fast-forwarding to the present, we find two primary methods of learning: rational thinking and experiential learning. While rational thinking insists on logically navigating through challenges, experiential learning advocates for doing, failing, and learning. πŸ‘©β€πŸ”¬πŸš€

The main criterion for achieving lean manufacturing is for the team to work out who wants what, when they want it and how they want it and why. In other words, to work out exactly what the problem is and what’s truly valuable in bringing about solving the problem.

Because there’s going to variability and unknowns in the manufacturing process, we know that focus is one of the most important parts of product development. It’s all about getting the right people focussed on a problem and that problem only until its solved.

Unlock Your Agile Potential by enrolling in one of our Scrum Courses today and learn how lean manufacturing continues to shape product development in unexpected, innovative ways. πŸš€πŸ“š


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John McFadyen Managing Partner
John McFadyen is an Executive and Enterprise Agile Coach with proven experience working on some of the UK and Europe’s largest, most complex Agile Transformations. As a Certified Scrum Trainer, John brings a wealth of experience as an Agile coach, Agile practitioner and software developer into each of the four core courses he provides. The war stories, the insights into successful Agile transformations and everything he has learned from coaching high-performance Agile teams combine to provide course delegates with a unique, compelling training experience that transforms as much as it empowers.

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