Lean Engineering: Efficiency @ Engineering Departments

Lean Engineering is a continuous improvement process designed to increase the efficiency and horsepower of engineering departments within manufacturing companies to make them more competitive in their marketplace.

The goal of a Lean in Engineering initiative is to increase the amount of valid engineering data (Engineering Intelligence) produced per dollar invested in your engineering assets.

Lean Engineering

The process for Lean Engineering

The process involves an honest & objective assessment of the value & performance of engineering assets in 5-key areas (pillars) in support of company objectives.

  1. Leadership
  2. People
  3. Processes
  4. Tools & Technology
  5. Engineering Intelligence

Engineering assets will also be benchmarked against industry standards & best practices.

Each incremental step is planned out and justified before changes are made.

This “success and repeat” method works to gain the confidence of all the team members from top management down to the base worker.

It is a 4-phased Continuous Improvement approach used to ensure quality and success.

This approach will tell you how to improve process efficiency.

The 4 phases of a Lean Engineering consulting engagement.

  1. Assess
  2. Design
  3. Implement
  4. Maintain

Lean Six Sigma uses DMAIC: Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, and Control.

Achieving engineering efficiency plays a pivotal role in helping you not only reach your goals, but increase productivity, reduce costs and give you a leg up on your competition.

What should you know as with any engineering discipline?

Here 12 points to know …

#1: Cellular Manufacturing

Cellular manufacturing is an approach in which all equipment and workstations are arranged based on a group of different processes located in close proximity to manufacture a group of similar products.

The primary purpose of cellular manufacturing is to reduce cycle time and inventories to meet market response times.

#2: Takt Time

This is the “heartbeat” of the customer.

Takt time is the average rate at which a company must produce a product or execute transactions based on the customer’s requirements and available working time.

 Takt = T/D

Where T is Time available for product/service.

D is a demand for the number of units

gives information on production pace or units per hour.

#3: Standardized Work

A process of a documented description of methods, materials, tools, and processing times required to meet takt time for any given job. This aids in standardizing the tasks throughout the value stream.

#4: One Piece Flow or Continuous Flow

This concept emphasizes reducing the batch size in order to eliminate system constraints.

A methodology by which a product or information is produced by moving at a consistent pace from one value-added processing step to the next with no delays in between.

#5: Pull Systems and Kanban

A methodology by which a customer process signals a supplying process to produce a product or information or deliver product/information when it is needed.

Kanban is the signals used within a pull system through scheduling combined with traveling instruction by simple visual devices like cards or containers.

#6: Five Why’s

A thought process by which the question “why” is asked repeatedly to get to the root cause of a problem.

#7: Quick Changeover / SMED

A 3-stage methodology developed by Shigeo Shingo that reduces the time to change over a machine by externalizing and streamlining steps.

Shorter changeover times are used to reduce batch sizes and produce just-in-time.

This concept aids in reducing the setup time to improve flexibility and responsiveness to customer changes.

#8: Mistake Proofing / Poka Yoke

A methodology that prevents an operator from making an error by incorporating preventive in-built responsiveness within the design of a product or production process.

#9: Heijunka / Leveling the Workload

The idea that, although customer order patterns may be quite variable, all of our processes should build consistent quantities of work overtime (day to day, hour to hour).

This strategy is adopted by intelligently planning different product mix and its volumes over a period of times.

#10: Total Productive Maintenance (TPM)

A team-based system for improving Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE), which includes availability, performance, and quality.

This aids in establishing a strategy for creating employee ownership autonomously for the maintenance of equipment.

The goal of the TPM program is to markedly increase production while at the same time increasing employee morale and job satisfaction.

OEE (Overall Equipment Efficiency):

OEE = A x PE x Q

A – Availability of the machine: PE – Performance EfficiencyQ – Refers to the quality rate.

#11: Five S

5S is a five-step methodology aimed at creating and maintaining an organized visual workplace.

This system aids in organizing, cleaning, developing, and sustaining a productive work environment.

#12: Problem Solving / PDCA / PDSA

The PDCA cycle is a graphical and logical representation of how most individuals have already solved problems.

It helps to think that every activity and job is part of a process, that each stage has a customer, and that the improvement cycle will send a superior product or service to the final customer.

PLAN: establish a plan to achieve a goal

DO: enact the plan

CHECK: measure and analyze the results

ACT: implement necessary reforms if results are not as expected

A system for identifying and solving problems to their root cause and then implementing countermeasures with monitoring.

Design for Lean Six Sigma (DFLSS)

Design for six sigma

Also known as Design for Six Sigma (DFSS), is a powerful methodology for ensuring the quality and reliability of the new product and process designs in any environment (manufacturing, services, and financial, healthcare, research).

Unlike other courses, this course uniquely combines the best know-how for developing efficient and waste-free designs (the Lean aspect), as well as those that are defect and error-free (the Six Sigma aspect).

DFLSS solves previously unsolvable problems in their organizations.

Lean design is the application of lean production principles, which promote the elimination of waste and non–value-adding activities in processes, to engineering and design.

It considers three perspectives to describe the design process as shown in conversion, flow, and value generation.

The difference in these visions is in the way that they conceptualize the process, in other words, the way in which they describe their aspects and properties.

These symbolic representations make them vary from their essential principles to the methods and practices to carry out their practical contribution.

The conversion view is instrumental in discovering which tasks are needed in a design undertaking; thus, it is perfectly possible to realize design projects based on this view.

However, the conversion view is not especially helpful in figuring out how not to use resources unnecessarily or how to ensure that customer requirement are met in the best manner

In short, the conversion view is effective for management, but not for improvement.

In fact, this view only addresses the first of three issues:

  1. An adequate, or sufficient, amount of work is done
  2. All unnecessary work is not done
  3. All the work that is done delivers the stated business purpose.



In consequence,

the single-minded use of this view has contributed directly and indirectly to many persisting problems in engineering projects, fragmentation, it is more important to carry out the task than to take care of interaction with other tasks.

The needed iterations and the inevitable variability in task outcome lead to rework that is not visible in the functional consideration, and the requirements of the final customer tend to get blurred in the often long chains of activities.

Written by:


Charles (Chuck) Intrieri, C.P.M., CPIM, VE

1532 Via Arroyo ….Paso Robles, CA 93446…714-788-0744… [email protected]