Lean Product Design, 3P and Nature’s Greatest Engineers


Over the holidays I had the chance to catch up with some reading as well as visiting some bookmarked websites. One of my favorites is the TED video lecture series. The 20 minute talk by Janine Benyus titled Biomimicry: Innovation Inspired by Nature was both fascinating and highly relevant to lean product design and the production preparation process (3P). It is an entertaining and inspiring video and I highly recommend having all of your design engineers, equipment planners and kaizen teams view it before investing in any design process.

Production Preparation Process was coined and formalized by Mr. Chihiro Nakao, founder of the Shingijutsu Consulting company and possibly the world’s greatest production engineer. He would like to be remembered as the Father of Moonshine. The Father of Moonshine is pictured above wearing glasses, between Ms. Corvi and Mr. Hersher. The photo is from the April 2006 Boeing Frontiers journal in which the lean practice of moonshine is explained:


Attending the 2006 Boeing Commercial Airplanes Moonshine Wars event are (from left) Carolyn Corvi, Airplane Production vice president and general manager; Chihiro Nakao, the former Shingijutsu Consulting president who’s considered the “father of Moonshine”; and Commercial Airplanes Lean Enterprise Office Director Mike Herscher. They’re looking at one team’s Moonshine ideas, which enabled it to develop a solution to a real production problem. Moonshine Wars is an annual event that challenges employees to develop and prove out design and manufacturing solutions. At this year’s competition, held in February in Seattle, teams from the 767 Program and Boeing Winnipeg shared the title of the event’s co-grand champions. Their prize is a week-long seminar in Japan to strengthen their Moonshine skills. The term Moonshine is derived from the days of U.S. Prohibition, when individuals illegally made their own liquor, usually late at night. They used inexpensive materials; borrowed, adapted and made their own equipment; and adopted the best ideas and methods.

Moonshine is a practical application of the “use your wits, not your wallet” and “no excuses, just find a way to do it” kaizen philosophies to production equipment or facility design. Moonshine enables us to rapidly actualize our ideas through so-called “try-storming” and “card board engineering” to mock up and simulate quick-and-dirty solutions. But where do the ideas themselves which form the basis of these experiments come from? Preceding the moonshine step in the production preparation process is the concept development phase, which is where the world’s greatest production engineer calls on nature’s greatest engineers.

After determining the purpose of the design and defining the essence of the function, the Father of Moonshine would have us ask, “How would nature do it?” In essence this question requires us to return to seek wisdom from nature’s greatest engineers and how they design creatures or systems which elegantly perform functions such as cling, shear, spin, protect or rotate. By gaining deep insights into how nature designs things, the theory goes, we can find simple solutions to our design challenges.

Based on that we sketch, combine, moonshine, evaluate, select and implement these ideas. That is the production preparation process in a nutshell. To learn more the production preparation process this article on how to use 3P to select design alternatives, an explanation of the so-called 16 catch phrases for lean manufacturing process design, and these typical top 5 reasons organizations choose to use 3P may be useful.

1 Comment

  1. Rob

    January 6, 2010 - 4:06 am

    Quality is first, everything else follows. 80% of the cost is defined with the design so quality must be built in at this stage:
    . Design Products for Ease of Manufacturing using Lean Principles.
    . Reduce Lead Time for New Product Introduction.
    . Reduce Product Development Costs.
    . Guarantee Process Capability to meet Takt Time with Minimum Resources.
    . Reduce Capital Requirements.
    Instead of thinking big, expensive equipment which contributes to a sizable capacity increase; we must think small. This means adjusting capacity requirements to within proximity of the demand. To accomplish this will require equipment that allows small increments capacity modifications based upon changes in the demand curve. Keeping these factors close together will minimize the loss cause by overcapacity. To head in this direction requires us to challenge the “big is better” philosophy regarding equipment and learn to make smaller additive types machines. Start to replace THESE words with the following:
    BIGGER – smaller
    FASTER – slower (just within the TAKT time)
    EXPEN$IVE – low cost equipment (built in-house)
    WIDER – narrower (frontages)
    SYSTEM – single function machines
    “Make a process… do not make equipment”