“It’s easier to cut cardboard…”

“It’s easier to cut cardboard…”

Lean 3P (Production, Preparation and Process) is an event-driven process for developing a new product concurrently with the operation that will produce it. 3P is a game-changer that results in better products that require less initial capital investment and lower ongoing costs.

A client I am working with is building a new manufacturing line in order to expand their business. Traditionally, the company would assign an engineer to develop the concept, spec out the process and place orders for equipment, tooling, flow racks, tools, etc. As is the case with most big projects and unforeseen problems, it is difficult to get it exactly right the first time. This typically equates to more and delays for launch as well as additional costs to the company.

The most visible characteristic of 3P is the idea of creating quick and dirty mock-ups of the product and the process. These mockups are often constructed of wood, cardboard, PVC pipe – materials at hand.

The idea is to be able to quickly and cheaply try out, and experience, a process (or product) so that problems can be surfaced, opportunities for improvement can be seen, and the PDCA cycle can be turned far more rapidly than would otherwise be possible.

The purpose of a scale model of the process serves to create a Gemba as well. Now, rather than doing an abstract analysis, you have something that people can see, touch, and interact with. Doing so forces details to the surface that are simply invisible in abstract models in computers or on paper.

The team assembled some tables, got some boxes and cardboard, and represented the machines, the work positions, the material and people flow.

Even as they were doing this, some of the team members saw things that they questioned, such as the walking distance and reach. They were able to simulate cart height, machine height, etc. and were also able to reduce the footprint.

Curious visitors, some senior managers, have given input as well. The best quote I’ve heard thus far, stated by the Vice President of operations, summed it all up well, “It’s easier to cut cardboard than steel”. This is a simple but powerful message.


I will post more as this project progresses.

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