Last speaker of the day — and of the conference — was David Haigh, Global Director of Continuous Improvement at W.E.T. Automotive Systems, discussing Lean Product Development. It’s actually refreshing to be at a BPM conference where I’m the only person that I heard (since I missed Jodi Starkman-Mendelsohn’s talk this morning) that talked about the technology.
They previously tried out a lot of different quality programs, including ISO 9000, Six Sigma, Lean, BPR and other techniques, but these were always initiated by the subsidiaries and didn’t really catch on, so in 2006 they started on a global program that included the shop floor, logistics and product creation. Whereas they had always focused on the production/fulfillment value stream previously, they expanded the scope to include the entire order-to-cash cycle, particularly to include the design portion of the cycle that has the smallest cost element but the largest cost influence.
I loved his analogy for hand-offs in the business process: it’s like the telephone game that we played as kids, whispering a message from one person to the next to see how message changes by the time it reaches the end; any hand-off results in a reduction in information clarity, as well as being a big time-waster.
Since he’s in an engineering manufacturing environment, there’s some interesting ideas that at first seem unique, but have value in many other areas: set-based design, for example, where you spend the engineers’ time researching and pushing boundaries on the technology that underlies customer solutions, rather than spending the time building one-off customer solutions. The equivalent in the BPM world would likely be having them focus on building out the service layer, not assembling the services using a BPMS. He also spoke about Toyota’s practice of streaming engineers up to higher levels of engineering rather than “promoting” them to sales or management — I always tried to do that when I ran a company, since there’s always some people who just want to stay technical, and don’t want their career to suffer for it.
They’ve built a “workflow” and project planning tool in Excel that has some interesting concepts: no dependencies between tasks, just points of integration, and the team sets the deadlines (can you say “collaboration”?). This helped them by providing tools for visualizing waste in the process, and driving to reduce the waste, which is the main focus of Lean.
This has been an interesting conference, although the attendance is quite a bit less than I had expected, but that makes for a much better environment for asking questions and networking. And speaking of networking, I think that I just have time to run home before the Girl Geek Dinner tonight…