Friday, July 17, 2015

Leaning into Efficient Design (Thinking)


I recently attended a seminar about Lean Processes and was pleasantly surprised to see this image used in the presentation. It immediately reminded me of another circular process which I was first exposed to nearly 30 years ago:

ETC - Express - Test - Cycle


Express - Test - Cycle
This is the Design Thinking framework; Express - Test - Cycle.  PDCA follows it by using the terms Do for Prototype/Build, Check for  Test and Adjust  for Cycle. It's also an expression of another idea, vigorously adopted by some Japanese companies since the 1950's; Kaizen.

Kaizen's Improvement Proposal


"Improvement Proposal"

After WWII, American occupation forces brought in experts to help with the rebuilding of Japanese industry. One of the instructors, Homer Sarasohn, recommended that W. Edwards Deming provide further training in statistical methods.

The 4 Steps of Quality Improvement


The Economic and Scientific Section had made a training film called "Improvement in 4 Steps" (Kaizen eno Yon Dankai), which described the three"J" programs; Job Instruction, Job Methods and Job Relations, introducing "Kaizen" to Japan. Today, the 4 Steps of Quality improvement are:

Identify  - Determine what we want to improve
Analyze - Learn about and Understand the problem
Develop - Hypothesize about what changes will improve the situation
Test       - Test the hypothesized solution to see if it yields improvement.
                 Decide whether to abandon, modify, or implement the solution.

Over the next 60 years Kaizen would become a cornerstone of Japan's global economic success.

Medal of the Sacred Treasure
For the pioneering, introduction, and implementation of Kaizen in Japan, Deming was awarded Japan's 2nd Order Medal of the Sacred Treasure in 1960.


Subsequently, the Union of Japanese Science and Engineering instituted annual Deming Prizes for achievement in product quality and dependability. In 1989, UJSE awarded the Deming Prize to Florida Power & Light for its exceptional accomplishments in process and quality control management. FPL was the first company outside of Japan to win the Deming Prize.

The 5 W's and One H


Kaizen's Five W's and 1 H
Another technique used in conjunction with Plan - Do - Check - Adjust is the 5 W's and 1 H, which are a form of root cause analysis. You ask a series of 5 questions about a failure, basing subsequent questions on the answers to the previous ones. Who, What, Why, Where, When and How are also essential elements of Interviewing With Empathy and good Storytelling.

FORD's Global 8D Method


Back in America, Ford Motor Company developed their 8 Disciplines (8D) Problem Solving Process, published in their 1987 manual, "Team Oriented Problem Solving (TOPS)." 

In the mid-90s, Ford added an additional discipline, D0: Plan - another nod back to PDCA. The process is now Ford's global standard, and is called Global 8D. The approach is intended to help teams deal with quality control and safety issues; develop customized, permanent solutions to problems; and prevent problems from recurring. Although the 8D Process was initially applied in the manufacturing, engineering, and aerospace industries, it's been useful and relevant in others.

Lean Product and Service Development

The core idea behind LEAN is to maximize customer value while minimizing waste. Simply put, lean means creating more value for customers while using fewer resources.

A lean organization understands what their customers want and focuses its processes to continuously improve their efficiency. The ultimate goal is to develop and employ a perfect value creation process that has zero waste.

The high level concepts of Lean Processes have several things in common;


  • Creation of re-usable knowledge - A3s, Checksheets, Limit and Trade-Off curves
  • Concurrent Engineering - Rapid Prototyping to develop the strongest solution.
  • Teams of Responsible Experts - Integrated work teams with multiple competences in each. 
  • Rewards for Competence Building in teams and individuals. (Learning)
  • Cadence and Pull - Engineers plan their own work and work their own plans.
  • Visual Management - Visualization is a main enabler of management in Lean product development.
  • Entrepreneurial System Designers (ESD) - One person is responsible for the engineering, aesthetic design, market and business success, of the product.
All of which sounds a lot like Product Design and the phases in the Design Thinking process, which raises a question;

Is there a unifying name for all this?

Lean Processes, Design Thinking, Kaizen, Scientific Thinking, The 4 Steps and 8D all have a common underlying theme; Efficiency - (which is also one of Disney's Four Keys, BTW.) But we are all adrift in a sea of "experts" who can't seem to agree about what to call it or which terms to use in describing the process or the outcomes. An optimist might suggest that this is just a part of Design Thinking's process of maturing into a standard. However, there may be something else going on which isn't obvious; emerging standards aren't always the best - they are the best that a diverse group of people could agree upon.

There are many examples of this. The Betamax video tape format could deliver better picture quality than VHS. Bluetooth has supplanted Ultra-wideband USB. Then there is the Android vs. iOS debate.

As engineers, we focus on the analytic side of things. We understand and manipulate "stuff". Business is supposed to be concerned with organizing the process. (I wonder at times if it isn't really more about creating busy-ness. ) Designers are typically associated with art - expressing emotion.

Product Design - which in many parts of the world is still called Industrial Design - is supposed to be a method which addresses all three; the Stuff (technology), the Emotion and the Process of how all the pieces fit together to produce useful, efficient results.

Efficient Design and Manufacturing?

It's not catchy, but is clear.




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