The Production Preparation Process (3P) -- A True "Game Changer"?

At a recent conference, I had the chance to speak with Drew Locher about the Production Preparation Process (3P), and how it is used. Drew recently co-authored a book titled Unleashing the Power of 3P: The Key to Breakthrough Improvement with Dan McDonnell. I asked Drew: "How does 3P provide a real breakthrough? And, how does it function within a Lean initiative?" Here is Drew's full response:

3P can provide breakthrough results since it is foremost a methodology for innovation.  First, one needs a clear problem statement of a problem that should be resolved.  This can be the function that a new or existing product is expected to perform. Then, two key principles are used to expand people's creative thought process. "Biomimicry" is where examples of that function are identified in nature.  Why nature?  Nature has already solved countless problems over millions of years. This principle also helps people "get out of their box" and expand their thought process. The next principle is "Seven Ways" -- Do not simply identify one possible solution, identify seven. This stretches the creative process. The creative process ceases when people converge too quickly on a possible solution, and perhaps overlook a better one. At some point, those examples from nature are translated to possible human-made solutions, and the best elements of the seven ways are combined to form a better solution.  A third principle is rapid simulation -- to make the "fuzzy" as tangible as possible, as early as possible.  This provides the means for rapid learning cycles, which improves the solution that results.

As for "fitting in" with Lean, think of 3P as kaizen on steroids.  Instead of making incremental improvements on existing products or processes, 3P is intended for major redesigns of either or both simultaneously.  Therefore it must be fully supported by leaders in terms of the commitment of appropriate resources to insure success.  It is not for the weak of heart!  The underlying principles, however, can still be applied in many business contexts.  Consider an example of a cellular/flow kaizen event on an existing process and where major change is not possible. A team should be encouraged to consider multiple alternative cell or flow line designs for the purpose of identify a better one.  And the team should rapidly simulate proposed designs using simple materials.  In this way, the "spirit" of 3P is maintained though the exact methodology is not necessarily followed.

What do you think of Drew's explanations? Have any of you used 3P at the front end of the design process? Do you believe 3P is key to designing market-changing products?

Here is a video of Drew speaking directly about his new book: