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Jim Huntzinger

Jim Huntzinger: It’s in the Relationship Process – Production and Product

By Jim Huntzinger, - Last updated: Saturday, February 23, 2013 - Save & Share - Leave a comment

I will post my answer in more of a story form – probably more appropriately my “comments,” as I am not sure there is a very specific answer.  And, in my experience, Michael is correct in the “much larger impact” product development can have on an organization financially.  (Although the significant financial impact results from improved and better processes, not from managing the financials per se.)

Developing better product development, PD, come from many angles – as Art spelled out quite well in his post.  The old (and frustrating comment for many folks) comment, “It depends,” which Art, I believe, is explaining – try to figure out your specifics under “it depends” on what your objective(s) is/are.

A key lesson I learned is the critical role between manufacturing process development and product development (notwithstanding following good processes to answer the “it depends” questions).  Many years ago, before there was much material on lean/TPS, let alone anything on product and process development, I was involved on a team to develop a new product – that is to say, we had to develop both the new manufacturing operations and product which was to be manufactured.  So trying to accomplish this in a “lean” manner – which we really had no idea what that meant; nor anywhere, that we were aware of, to reference – we treaded forward figuring it out as we went.

First, we figured working closely together – manufacturing engineers (I was a manufacturing engineer) and product engineers – was a good idea.  So we met formally/scheduled a minimum of 2 or 3 times every week.  We also were always in a daily dialog because we constantly had questions for each other.

Our meetings were brutal.  The best analogy is playing a pick-up basketball game with your buddies, where unless there is blood or a lost limb, there is no foul.  We were relentless on each other.  What this meant was we were very deeply questioning each other on everything we asked for or claimed to need.  It wasn’t that we had to answer questions; it was we had to answer with facts and data to backup our claims – and, often facts and data to back up our facts and data.  The positive of this brutal dialog we had was we all had mutual respect for each other and there was never any animosity between us.  It was just good, hard fun for us.  But – and this is in hindsight – it made us think deep and hard about what we were doing and trying to accomplish.

The manufacturing engineers were hell bent on delivering complete one-piece flow using well designed fixtures, tooling, machines and lines at a reasonable (lowest possible) cost while maintaining the highest quality (maintaining tolerances of the part prints), while the product engineers were hell bent on delivering functioning product (well-designed component parts which would result in a well-functioning final assembly) which would satisfy the operating parameters and quality level expectations of the OEMs and end user customers of which our product the key assembly, and within their cost targets of both the external customers and our own internal customer (management cost and margin requirements).  In essence, this was the battle line draw over which we brutalized each other.  (Note:  I do not imply that our parameters were the right ones or ones others should have.  I am only explaining what drove us in our specific situation – it was part of our “it depends.”)

We made very significant progress in the development of both the process and product during this project.  We were very proud of how much we had impacted both the manufacturing processes and the product for what we saw was a great product that we would soon manufacturer.  As a result production and the product were intimately tied together in a very positive way resulting in a more robust product of high quality and a reasonable (market-friendly) price and cost.  We had accomplished our goals, albeit with a good number of bumps and bruises.

Another very powerful result from this project was the level of understanding gained between the two engineering groups.  Having an understanding of the motivations and needs of the other group significantly improves the quality and speed in which decisions can be made and the depth at which they can be made.

So in trying to answer the questions asked two main results can be accomplished.  1) A significantly improved leadtime and quality of product and process can be obtained.  This reaps cost savings from a number of levels.  And 2) a much deeper understanding and relationship between design and production which accelerates the continued improvement process which makes each time through the PD cycle faster, deeper (high quality), and less costly.

It is said that about 85 percent of the costs are set after a product is released into production; which, in turn, means even with the best kaizen efforts only 15 percent of the costs can be improved throughout the rest of the life cycle of the product.  So, in order to impact a drastically higher level of cost improvement (the 85 percent), the product cost improvements must be impacted during the PD phase of the life cycle.  And tying the knowledge and understanding between production engineering and product engineer is the key to tap into this huge financial and customer-focused part of the cycle.  The critical element lies in deep improvements in the relationship cycle.

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