Redeveloping Product Development at Volvo

I came across this interesting article that provides a little insight into how Volvo developed one of its new trucks -- the Volvo FMX. According to Gunnar Eliasson (a market manager for Volvo Trucks), customer input and specific requirements are now influencing the design of Volvo's trucks in a much more direct fashion. As product lifecylces are much shorter due to increased competition, response to customer demands must be more immediate.

With the Volvo FMX, the development process included customers, drivers, sales staff, and marketing specialists and then prototypes were built and tested after input and "wish lists" were distilled. A very crucial point of the article is a quote from Jeffrey Liker (author of The Toyota Way) who noted that this new process is what separates Lean product development from traditional product development: "In Lean production, specialists work together freely across several departments and areas, all so as to be able to better meet customer demands. At the same time, this approach promotes constant learning about the production processes and understanding of how product development is conducted."

Do you know of any companies that include this type of input very early in the process? How has it affected lead times?

Most companies' major concern with this type of process is the dissemination of important "secrets" to competitors. The more various "outsiders" involved in the development process so thoroughly increases the potential for leaks. Eliasson, however, reveals that the priorities and outcomes have greatly changed: "The benefits of inviting customers into the product development process far outweigh the risk that information might spread to our competitors."


Lean Culture in a Pharmaceutical Company

Over at the PharmTech.com site, an article by Christian Houborg details a case study on how Lean can drive the creation of an improved culture within pharmaceutical companies. One of the main issues the author addresses is how pharmaceutical companies should integrate a Lean methodology into their current good manufacturing practice (cGMP) approach. Houborg's case study examines the approach used by Lundbeck (an international Danish pharmaceutical company engaged in the research and development, production, marketing, and sale of drugs for the treatment of psychiatric and neurological disorders). The four-phased approach consisted of:
  1. Building consensus in the management group.
  2. Building the pilot and proving that it works.
  3. Running a large number of Lean events and building a culture around these events.
  4. Increasing the focus upon Leaders after two successful years.

The fourth phase is quite interesting because it revolved around a Lean leadership development program, which itself followed four sequential modules:

  1. Lean Leadership Foundation -- concentrates on getting the basics accurate.
  2. Lean People Leadership -- focuses upon the qualities and needs of the individual manager's team.
  3. Lundbeck Lean Acceleration -- the existing situation in the company is analysed, with consideration of what had and had not worked with the objective of speeding up the transformation further.
  4. Sustaining Lean -- sustaining momentum is discussed and all participants present the result of their Lean project.

These four modules geared toward the leaders are probably instrumental in sustaining the Lean gains by preventing stagnation and backsliding -- This is the point where the organiztion prgresses from applying techiques to developing an improvement culture. The most important part of the article is summed by the author when he states that the "approach is much more than just about waste elimination; Lean has become a complete business paradigm. Employees that were earlier engaged in Lean teams are now partnered with the top managers, driving Lean culture in their area together."

What are your thoughts on this case study? Does Lundbeck's Lean system contain facets missing from most initiatives?