To successfully apply the Lean approach to an R&D project requires discipline and an open mind towards co-operative working. You need to set clear goals and a steady marching pace. The idea is not just to have some product out to market faster, but rather to reduce the customers’ waiting time for a solution that they have found a need for. Asking the customer about their needs should always be the first step in product development. The essence of Lean is to maximize the value for the customer.
The development of the NDX® valve controller was the first project to truly adopt the Lean approach in R&D here at Metso. Based on input gathered through interviews and feedback, there was a clear picture of the type of product we wanted to see at the end of the project. In addition to savings, which is something that everyone is looking for, the customer input steered us towards developing solutions that made installation, commissioning and use easier and more intuitive than ever before.
Picking up the pace
The Lean approach brought along numerous changes in the way the R&D team worked. The active involvement, cooperation and open dialogue between all departments gave a new sense of purpose to everyone involved. The newly introduced 3-week sprint cycles helped maintain momentum across the board and showcase the made progress in the regular stake holder review meetings. For people who take pride in their attention to detail and are used to delivering perfection, it was not easy to bring unfinished work to the table on a regular basis. But the review meetings provide a great opportunity to make corrective moves on the go. Reviews also give all stake holders full visibility on the project achievements and challenges once every three week. Setting a limited number of achievable goals for the three week sprint rather than trying to push along tens of different tasks simultaneously is also proving to be a motivating way of working.
Also, extensive testing used to be another function that took up a lot of time in the past. We wanted to develop our automatic testing capabilities to allow us to concentrate on more creative problem solving tasks and speed up the product development process. We can now run thousands of test cases several times a day. Extensive system performance tests run automatically overnight and we can start analysing the findings first thing in the morning. These types of changes in our operating model are reducing the time to market for our products and improving the quality of the product at the same time.
The Lean NDX® project – Performance perfected
The all-new Metso Neles® NDX® valve controller promises to deliver performance perfected. It is a bold statement, but one we can proudly stand behind. It is a product that has been designed based on exactly what our customers have asked for combined with over 50 years of in-house experience. We took the customer input, and re-imagined the valve controller to make it easier, safer and more reliable than ever before. In the process, the R&D team here at Metso has also perfected their design process and made the Lean approach the new standard in R&D.
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Head of Neles Smart Products