Lean Manufacturing

How to Use 3P to Work Out Process Design Alternatives

By Jon Miller Updated on April 3rd, 2021

Apoorva from India asks, “Generally how many alternatives are worked out in 3P?” Production Preparation Process, or 3P as it is known, is the name used to describe the American consulting market’s understanding of the Shingijutsu consulting company’s understanding of the Toyota Motor Corporation’s approach to process development and production preparation. In a previous post we discussed the 16 catch phrases of 3P which are an embedded thought process for this type of production preparation.

The 3P approach involves identifying “alternatives” or options for performing each transformational step in a process. It requires thinking of a process such as high speed drilling as “make hole” so that the essential function performed is the objective, not the current technology used to make the hole (CNC drill). This is not dissimilar to how VA/VE looks at processes.

When you are designing equipment, or a production line that is built from a series of processes and connected equipment, you need to identify alternatives for each step. This can be tedious. Most engineers who are first faced with 3P balk at this exercise when there is a catalog full of solutions. Generating seven alternatives can be like pulling teeth. Plenty of “stupid ideas” are needed. A cross functional team is definitely recommended.

The short answer to Apoorva’s question is that you need to come up with seven alternatives, mock up the top three, and then build the top one selected from evaluation criteria. Why seven? Because that’s what the great Nakao sensei, co-founder and head of Shingijutsu tells us. Six is too few, eight is too many, perhaps.

After creating a charter for a 3P project to define the scope and desired outcome, a properly trained production preparation team would use the Process At A Glance to develop seven alternatives, evaluate the seven alternatives to select top three, sketch out model operations on Process At A Glance, simulate the three alternatives as and then select top process design.

The simulation can involve building 3D (three dimensional) mock ups using cardboard, wood, duct tape, etc. to get as close to the concept as possible, quickly. Once the size, shape and functions performed are defined actual functioning models can be built and tested. The more simulation you can do, the closer your models will be to the final item.

The main reasons to start “inside out” from value added transformation or feature creation (“make hole”) to the fixture, the controls, the box instead of “outside in” by selecting a machine out of a catalog is that it helps avoid buying or building machines with lots of unnecessary accessories.

The idea of 3P is to build bare bones machine with human wisdom and designed for quick changeovers, pokayoke and one piece flow. This requires thinking through several alternatives and then asking the questions which direct your thinking towards kaizen. The following guidelines can be used for evaluating and ranking the alternatives:

Q-1 Pokayoke is built into the process
Q-2 Go/nogo gauging for in-process checks
Q-3 Fewer than 0.03% defects
Q-4 Auto-stop for abnormality (jidoka)
C-1 Low motion waste
C-2 Low capital investment
C-3 Minimal space required
C-4 Known process technology
C-5 Minimal development time required
C-6 Simpler than existing process methods
C-7 Easy autonomous maintenance, or maintenance free
C-8 High ratio of value added time in the process
C-9 Low tooling cost
D-1 Easily scalable up by 400% or down to 25%
D-2 In-house development
D-3 Off-the shelf equipment or components
S-1 Proper guarding and safety devices in place
S-2 Dust, chips, slag, etc. collected by equipment
S-3 High ergonomics evaluation score
S-4 Meets environmental, fire, and health regulations
L-1 Creates one-piece flow
L-2 Meets Takt Time
L-3 Creates a pull system
L-4 Quick changeover
L-5 Operator input
L-6 Chaku-chaku (load load)
L-7 Hanedashi (auto unload)
L-8 Mobile & flexible, on wheels, not roots or vines

That’s how to use 3P to work out process design alternatives. Thanks for the question.

  1. Patricia Ranch

    April 24, 2007 - 6:51 am

    What book(s) to you recommend to help explain this process in more detail?
    Thank You,

  2. Jon Miller

    April 24, 2007 - 7:55 am

    Hi Patricia,
    There are currently no books on the market that explain 3P in any detail. Kaizen Products offers a CD-ROM tool kit with templates. The Lean Design Guidebook by Ron Mascitelli mentions 3P but not in depth.

  3. shivaguru

    May 11, 2007 - 11:20 pm

    I want to learn lean management system in garment Industry Preferly in Operations.
    Tnxs and rgds,

  4. Jon Miller

    May 13, 2007 - 9:41 am

    Hello Shivaguru,
    You can find many articles about Lean manufacturing in garment manufacturing at Kathleen Fasanella’s website Fashion Incubator.

  5. Glenn Lott

    June 12, 2007 - 4:51 pm

    Can 3P Production Preparation Process be used in transitioning current equipment within a manufacturing facility to achieve lean manufacturing initiatives?

  6. Jon

    June 13, 2007 - 12:48 pm

    Hi Glenn,
    It sure can. One of the top 5 reason for using 3P is do it right when you move equipment or when you upgrade or replace current equipment.
    You may be not always be able to modify existing equipment to a great extent, but you can should apply the 3P thoroughly, since practically all of the Lean principles are built into the Production Preparation Process.
    Even without building right-sized machines you can examine the equipment to simplify the inbound and outbound material handling, make the layout more flexible to respond to future changes, apply standard work, and build in hanedashi (auto-eject) and pokayoke (error proofing) devices, greatly improve safety, make it easier to do 5S and TPM, and so forth.

  7. cool

    May 27, 2008 - 11:54 pm

    can you tell me various sytem improvement techniques and detail about lean concepts ,how to implement them in garment industry

  8. Harry

    February 15, 2009 - 1:05 pm

    this looks great! I am confused about the letters in the codes.
    Q, C, D, S, L.
    At first, I thought value proposition, quality, cost, delivery, service…but wait, Safety maybe instead of Service. Can someone please clarify?

  9. Jon Miller

    February 15, 2009 - 1:23 pm

    Hi Harry,
    It looks like I forgot to add the explanation for the categories. They are:
    Q = Quality
    C = Cost
    D = Delivery
    S = Safety
    L = Low cost intelligent automation

  10. Harry

    June 23, 2009 - 1:28 pm

    I have started promoting the use of 3P in our product development process. I’d like to present examples of 3P successes in industry. Could you point me toward companies who use this technique currently?
    thank you,

  11. Jon Miller

    June 23, 2009 - 2:47 pm

    Hi Harry,
    I know that a lot of companies have dabbled with 3P. Not as many have integrated it within a holistic product development process. Some benchmarks companies in this area include Hon Industries, the Danaher Group companies, Black and Decker, and in certain areas, Boeing. While some Japanese automotive OEMs are world class at product design, many don’t do detail design at the system or component level so looking at 1st or 2nd tier companies is another idea.

  12. Rod

    January 6, 2010 - 10:09 pm

    Hi Jon,
    I am rolling out various aspects of Lean Thinking within my digital agency. I am always keen to look at different techniques for evaluating solutions and prototyping. 3P looks very interesting, but I am wondering if you have any examples or references to applying this to the software design process?
    Am really enjoying all the great posts.
    Thanks in advance,

  13. Arruda Julio

    March 21, 2012 - 11:45 am

    Hi John! Tks for your explanation in order I appreciate, but according I understanding the 3p technic is appropriate for implementation process. Could you give us same help for developer new product! Tks

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