Process Innovation
Innovation Manufacturing Engineering Strategy Technology

Innovating production processes: here are the 3 pillars

Innovating production processes: how to do it?

Today we talk about the three main methodologies to improve the capability of production processes:


Lean Six Sigma


Those involved in the improvement of manufacturing processes know how much Lean Six Sigma is the reference methodology. Without going into technical details, Lean Manufacturing, or Lean Production, aims to “streamline” processes by identifying, reducing or even eliminating waste within production systems and the supply chain. Just as to obtain sports results it is necessary to lose weight, in the same way it is necessary to eliminate all that is not strictly necessary for the flow and processing of materials and information in order to satisfy the customer by reducing production costs, the cycle times of semi-finished products and improving the quality of the processes.

On the other hand, Six Sigma gives its best when you want to reduce the variability within the processes. Variability is in fact responsible for the uncertainty associated with a company’s production system. A high uncertainty, for example, does not allow us to estimate costs, times and the amount of material needed with the necessary accuracy. High uncertainty in processes also means high probability of rejection, with a consequent increase in associated non-quality costs.

It is therefore clear that Lean Six Sigma is a necessary tool for companies with a view to continuous improvement. However, even if necessary, it may not be enough.


Concurrent Engineering


In the concurrent engineering phase, production costs and times are defined. By means of simultaneous design the manufacturing experts are involved in order to prevent problems in the subsequent production ramp-up phase.

As can be seen in the following figure, according to some estimates, the design impacts by 5% on Product Development costs, while it affects the costs associated with the entire life cycle of the product by 70%.


Concurrent Engineering and Product Life Cycle


The final result will be a synergic effort to get to the best possible design compromise, thanks to which many of the improvement activities can be avoided.

However, a good initial project and a structured activity of continuous improvement may not be enough, especially in the presence of innovative design products (geometries, materials, functionality). In this case, it may be necessary to acquire a new production capability.


Manufacturing Capability Acquisition


When Concurrent Engineering and Lean Six Sigma were not sufficient to guarantee robust processes capable of satisfying both the design and operational requirements of the factory, the third way forward is to acquire new capabilities. The acquisition of production capability can take place through different paths, more or less expensive in terms of use of economic and human resources.

It’s possible to acquire new capabilities throughout technology scouting, looking for, identifying and selecting the best technology or the most suitable solution to reduce the gap.

Otherwise, it’s possible to invest in Open Innovation through collaborations between companies, technology transfer centers and universities in order to develop new production technologies.

Finally, if the company is properly structured, it is possible to implement a technological research and development department with the aim of developing new solutions internally.
In particular, in the presence of innovative production processes that do not exist on the market, the use of a Stage-Gate process is recommended. In this sense, the MRL approach is perhaps the most used.


Manufacturing Capability Management


These 3 approaches (Concurrent Engineering, Lean Six Sigma and Manufacturing Capability Acquisition) used in a synergic way, shape the  Manufacturing Capability Management structured process. Thanks to this approach companies are able to manage their production capability by leveraging existing methodologies to innovate production processes.


Where to start?


In this short post we have described the main 3 approaches to innovate production processes in a company. This entails a series of rather evident advantages, starting from a better manufacturing quality of the manufactured articles, lower waste, lower costs and lower crossing times.

In this sense, Accialini Training & Consulting can provide the support you seek. In fact, we are able to advise you on the processes and methodologies to be implemented depending on the current state, budget and business requirements. Is it better to redesign a detail according to the logic of simultaneous engineering or better to make continuous improvement? Or, do we need to acquire new capability, and if so, which approach to follow? Check out our Manufacturing Capability Management service.

Nicola Accialini

Hi there! I am Nicola, founder and admin of SkillS4i. Aerospace Engineer, technology enthusiast and industrial expert. I live in Spain and I like travelling, cycling, hiking and reading.

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