The application of lean principles to the military aerospace product development process
Author(s)Slack, Robert A. (Robert Arthur), 1954-
Joyce M. Warmkessel.
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The aerospace market is as demanding as many industries in terms of the challenges on firms to deliver world class performance and quality at reduced cost and lead-times. These challenges extend to the military side of the aerospace market which is faced with the challenge of developing, delivering and supporting systems with ever increasing complexity in an environment of significantly reduced defense budgets. These challenges suggest that application of innovative improvement strategies will be required for market success. Additionally, the ability of the armed forces to maintain superiority in this environment is highly dependent on the aerospace firms' achievement of significant reductions in the cost of ownership of these systems. Since the major portion of the cost of ownership of aerospace systems is determined by the decisions made during the product development process, focus of improvement efforts on this portion of the product life cycle is key to achieving success. Recent research by James P. Womack and Daniel T. Jones suggests that application of five lean principles to the processes across the entire enterprise will lead to achieving a "lean" stale. This lean state results from the elimination of waste from operations such that products can be developed with a minimum of overall expense in terms of human effort, material and time. Nevertheless, the bulk of the discussion and application examples in this and other recent research have largely been focused on the manufacturing portion of the value stream. There are many examples in industry of where these principles have successfully transformed manufacturing organizations. But product development organizations have been struggling with how these principles apply to product development and what "lean" really means in the product development context. This difficulty in translating lean principles to product development is partially due to the differences between the processes used in the manufacturing setting and the product development setting, and the differences in the 'product' which these processes produce. The problem to be studied in this thesis is whether value stream mapping and lean principles, which have been successful in facilitating the lean transition in manufacturing, are effective tools in identifying waste and identifying an improved product development process future state. This thesis will study the application of value stream mapping to a military aerospace product development program at Pratt & Whitney. Although it is recognized that in order to achieve the goals of lean thinking one has to apply the principles enterprise wide, this work will be limited to looking at application in a specific portion of the product development process. In so doing, sufficient process breath will be covered for demonstration purposes, while the scope of work will be limited consistent with the intent of this thesis. Prior to the case study, each of the lean principles is investigated from a product development perspective hey researching the underlying concepts and comparing them to recent business process work of others. The primary focus will be on the definition of Value in product development and the Value Stream mapping process. Additionally, a survey of product development engineers is conducted which supports the existence of similar types of waste in product development as is seen in manufacturing.
Thesis (S.M.)--Massachusetts Institute of Technology, System Design and Management Program, February 1999.Includes bibliographical references (p. 85).
DepartmentSystem Design and Management Program
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
System Design and Management Program