Lean and Agile Development products are net performance improvement drivers and can increase capacity for innovation, supervision or responses to invitations to tender, thanks to improved use of skills and resources.
Context and challenges
Research and Development (R&D), technical innovation and engineering, are specific activities in the industrial sector. In contrast to production, flows and information are neither visible nor linear, with rare exceptions (meetings, test benches, etc.).
Consequently, performance and efficiency issues become just as important:
- Are we focused on what the client is interested in?
- How many times is work redone?
- Are our interfaces clear and easy to handle?
- Where are the bottlenecks that are slowing down progress?
- Are technical difficulties quickly anticipated or identified?
- Are standards re-used or do we start again from scratch?
- Is technical expertise used and shared?
R&D and product development affect the entire value chain, through their decisions, and partially affect the cost of Production, Supply Chain, Procurement, and Services. Therefore, efficiency is crucial, and must be measured not only in the area of R&D but also on other operational functions of the company.
This need for efficiency is addressed by Lean Product Development, Lean Engineering and Agile Methods, provided that these methods are applied to the Lean principles that contribute to performance, as a whole. These methods must be applied as a whole because they connect techniques and tools, which are often just the tip of the iceberg, to organisational changes and soft skills, which require significant awareness on the part of the management.
The success of these initiatives depends on four fundamental points:
- Critical role of management in R&D efficiency:
When developing products and services, it is essential to understand how managers dedicate their time. How they work and what they require have a direct impact on teams’ efficiency.
- Proactive or reactive management?
- Technical expertise?
- Transmission of knowledge?
- Continuous improvement?
- How much time is spent on meetings, and for which decisions?
R&D is not an ivory tower. Lean and Agile methods really transform the management system. Programming and Industrialisation need to be integrated into into this system to ensure the understanding and acceptance of functions liaising with R&D and Engineering.
- Well-thought-out execution is at the heart of the result:
The fastest implementation possible is required to define modes of operation, even if that then means reviewing the definition to be able to create a standard.
However, execution should not involve simply “cutting and pasting” or investing in tools. As visual management attests, it is not the planning but the integration of shared, structured data into an event and decision circuit that determines results.
- Financial benefits:
Lean and agile progress plans provide real financial benefits. Yet these are rarely immediate, and require a capacity to measure operational performance AND to work more closely with Finance, by cooperating with management controlers and the Administration and Finance Division of the entities concerned.
How can Argon Consulting help you?
- Analysis of the current situation and creation of a pilot to demonstrate the concrete benefits and launch a continuous improvement approach. This improvement plan is not limited to strictly Lean or Agile initiatives, but may include techniques derived from Six Sigma or Quick Response Quality Control (QRQC), the Theory of Constraints, and other methods to improve the efficiency of R&D and Engineering. This pilot phase often includes coaching for managers (as well as Scrum Masters and Product Owners) to ensure the performance and sustainability of the mode of operation
- Support in deploying Lean techniques in your organisation to create a benchmark, speed up the initiative, and assist you in specific complex projects (e.g. Scrum of Scrums, A3 for the engineering system or trade-off documentation, resource management in a design office, where a project is rolled out following critical chain methods, implementation of Model-Based Systems Engineering (MBSE), etc.)
- Entity creation or audit, renewing and managing the portfolio of improvements, in connection with company strategy and on-the-ground feedback, as well as measurement of the level of maturity of Lean practices.