You hear a lot about Lean these days. You hear it from manufacturers hoping to cut waste, cost, and lead times while improving quality and from thought leaders promoting lean thinking and lean processes as requisites to competitiveness in every industry. And the talk is backed up by numerous success stories.
By eliminating waste and non-value-added activities, companies that implement lean processes realize greater efficiency, faster response to customer needs and competitive pressures, lower costs, higher quality, and improved profitability. It’s no surprise then, that so many companies are “going lean.”
Most lean initiatives involve production on the factory floor and, in the last few years, lean initiatives have been appearing in supply chain and inventory management programs. But very few people are aware of how much waste there is in their MCAD operation — they’ve never considered it. It’s difficult to visualize.
The vast majority of managers have no idea how much time MCAD users are spending fixing errors or recreating lost or corrupt MCAD data rather than creating new products or adding value to existing products. While many managers are trained to see waste in factories, and understand what to do about it, few are trained to accurately assess the productivity of design processes — so most never see the mountains of “scrap” that are produced every day in design and engineering. They know how to do value stream analysis, identify value-added (VA) and non-value-add (NVA) steps, and see how they affect efficiency in production plants, but simply cannot see what goes on between the CAD software and its user.
Within a CAD department, most time is spent in rework, period. I typically see design departments spending 20 percent of their time creating CAD models; 30 percent detailing them; and 50 percent editing. One could easily argue about VA versus NVA, but this isn’t the point. The fact is most of this work is waste — yet managers walk right by it every day.
Few things affect product cost and delivery more than wasted time and re-work caused by lack of standardized design methods and poor-quality MCAD data. To make matters worse, this prevents people from collaborating effectively. MCAD interoperability problems are a huge source of NVA work. And it hurts not only efficiency, but also morale. Designers and engineers are happier when designing and engineering rather than cleaning up MCAD data problems.
To compete in today’s global economy, manufacturers must innovate and produce higher-quality products faster than the competition. Success depends on how well international business partners collaborate and react to all sorts of changes. It means communicating more efficiently to synchronize revisions and to turn faster design cycles, but it can’t happen without effective MCAD interoperability.
The 2008 3D Collaboration & Interoperability Conference and Exhibition is coming up May 15-16, 2008 in Denver, CO. This is an excellent opportunity to meet with interoperability experts and industry leaders as they discuss the issues and barriers to sharing and working with 3D product data in global manufacturing.
It’s also a great opportunity to start implementing “lean design” methodologies, and eliminating the NVA in your design and engineering operation.
David Prawel is founder and president of Longview Advisors, Inc., a global consulting firm for the manufacturing industry. Send e-mail about this article to DE-Editors@deskeng.com.