Lean Enterprise Value Phase II
From the first phase of its research, LAI learned that organizations in the defense aerospace industry differ widely and companies have vastly different data collection systems. It also found that there were few common operation definitions and that operation characteristics varied drastically. There were few shared metrics and the control methodologies employed varied. These differences make detailed findings from surveys and case studies problematic. Therefore, in the second phase, LAI wanted to conduct research that was mindful of the breadth in the industry but focused on more depth of understanding in each sector.
To do so, it took two approaches: (1) design and management of complex manufacturing systems, and (2) production control in factories and supply chains. The first approach involved two thrusts: (a) a study of each sector's manufacturing system design, and (b) a study of the elements of lean system design. In the first thrust, the objective was to understand the manufacturing system. LAI did this by identifying those manufacturing system elements that enabled reduced cycle time. It chose to segment this research by sector and investigate similar products in each sector. LAI focused on assembly operations and collected key system and performance data. This research first focused on the engine sector, followed by the airframe and electronic sectors. In each sector, exploratory research was necessary to understand the sector operational characteristics.
With each sector studied, LAI gained more knowledge of the manufacturing system characteristics. It found that the manufacturing system design is directly attributable to performance outcomes. Manufacturing systems with lean attributes performed about 45% better relative to on-time delivery than systems designed with a departmental approach. In the engine sector, part synchronization from suppliers to the assembly line was key to system improvements. In the airframe sector, performance was dominated by quality issues. The electronic sector required further study. These research results contributed to a manufacturing system redesign in one military engine line.
In the second thrust of the first approach, the objective was to characterize what was meant by a lean manufacturing system design. There is a plethora of literature on lean, but very little system level analysis of the design of a lean manufacturing system. This research focused on creating this framework. Initial studies were in the automotive industry but additional industries, including the defense aerospace industry, also were studied. The result has been the development of a production system decomposition to understand a lean system from a systems level. Subsequently, additional tools have been developed that have assisted members in evaluating their level of lean system design.
In the second approach, LAI recognized that the complexity of the parts in the industry and low volumes of individual part numbers made job shop processes the preferred method of fabricating parts. The challenge was to develop a way to schedule parts in an environment of many reentrant flows, machine failures, and long set-up times. A hedge point control theory was developed and practically implemented about vital control points to control (including resequencing) the flow of parts through a facility. Simulations and field experiments were used to demonstrate the superior performance of this method over strictly MRP scheduling.
LAI's research efforts continued with a study of lean system implementation in the space sector to test the production system design decomposition and another study to understand transition to production issues through improving cross-functional communication. For the third phase, LAI's research emphasis focused on manufacturing system design.