Engineers at Leupold and Stevens (http://rbi.ims.ca/3846-511), a company that produces scopes and binoculars in Beaverton, OR, needed to find a way to slip a lens into a housing quickly without risking misalignment. With the help of management consulting firm, Emerge Business Strategies (http://rbi.ims.ca/3846-512) of Gig Harbor, WA, the engineers used 3P principles to find a lens that fit quickly and accurately into the housing.
Emerge engineers worked with Leupold and Stevens manufacturing managers in order to design the part they needed. "We designed a lens that could be built fast without mistakes," explains Larry Godt, a consultant with Emerge Business Strategies. The design engineers created an asymmetrical lens that could only go into the housing in one way, thus reducing the risk of mistakes. The part was designed by engineers working in tandem with manufacturing, a team approach that's a hallmark of 3P.
The three Ps stand for production, preparation and process. They're related to product engineering and manufacturing process design. In 3P these elements of product development are merged. Design engineers within a manufacturing team employ a lean product development process.
The roots of 3P go back to the Toyota production system of the mid-1980s. "3P was developed by Sensei Nakao, who worked for the consulting company Shingijutsu in Japan," explains Godt. Shingijutsu designed Toyota's groundbreaking production system which became the quality standard in the automotive industry. "3P uses the principles of lean manufacturing. It can be used when there is design change, a new product launch, or a significant change in the production rate," says Godt.
But even before Toyota gained recognition for its high-quality production, the principles of 3P were apparent in the Japanese kaikaku experience of teamwork and quality control. This developed after World War II, when Japanese design and manufacturing professionals rejected Ford's classic linear product design and development in favor of cross-discipline teams.
The Japanese admired Ford's war-based system of producing "a bomber an hour," but they wanted a system that tied product design and manufacturing together in a manner more compatible with Japanese culture.
3P Process: Although this diagram
illustrates a linear process, 3P in fact involves many circular loops and
retun paths as engineers proceed through stages of the design.
"Moonshine" refers to innovator teams developing methods late at night.
They also viewed Ford's organizational hierarchy as demeaning. Oddly, though, there was an Iowan behind the Japanese teamwork twist on Ford's production. Edwards Deming, who assisted post-war Japan's industrial development, pushed the quality control ideals that are associated with the 3P teamwork concept.
3P reaches the U.S.
Although Toyota's production was admired in the U.S., the 3P principles behind it have only slowly emerged in U.S. design and manufacturing. 3P has mostly appeared in industries other than automotive. "I learned it by using it to design new products in the aeronautics and electronics industry," adds Godt. He notes that 3P diverges from traditional design and manufacturing in that individuals from the disciplines involved in creating and manufacturing a product work together as a team.
"3P is different in that it's a team environment," says Godt. "People from manufacturing, engineering, and maintenance all participate, rather than just the engineer by himself." Godt notes that in the past the disciplines did their work independently. "Traditional design is sequential. We get the design right, and then throw it over the fence to someone who has to figure out how to make it," notes Godt.
3P is lean
As well as gathering different professionals together as a team, 3P is also associated with lean manufacturing. U.S. companies have turned to the 3P teamwork structure mostly to cut down on the costs of creating and producing products. "In 3P, you work with the product and the process, and you bring in lean principles right from the beginning," says Godt. He notes that the increasing emphasis on lean manufacturing is driving the adoption of 3P. "It's a trend. The market is driving for higher success rates," notes Godt. "Traditional methods are falling short."
Brad Trago, director of engineering for Danaher Motion (http://rbi.ims.ca/3846-513), agrees that 3P has become associated with cost savings, as well as faster product development. "3P is a disciplined, methodical procedure that facilitates the rapid evaluation of ideas for product design and manufacturing processes," he says. Danaher recently adopted the 3P process to design and manufacture its new line of AKM high-performance servo motors.
Design by prototype
Part of the 3P team process of designing the product while also developing the manufacturing process involves hands-on experimentation with prototypes, a method called "trystorming," The trystorming aspect of 3P involves using trial designs to see how well they solve product and process challenges.
"Trystorming," like it sounds, is a hands-on extension of traditional brainstorming. "Trystorming takes brainstorming one step further in that an idea is mocked-up quickly so that it can be evaluated physically," says Danaher's Trago.
Trystorming also differs from traditional brainstorming in that it includes a cross-discipline team that works out design flaws and experiments with the prototype from both design and manufacturing points of view. "3P actually allows you to try a solution out rather than just throwing up a drawing," explains Dave Sonsteng, manufacturing engineering manager at Leupold Stevens. "We say, 'Let's make it. Let's see what it would look like in boxes. Let's mimic a drill or holding device.'"
Godt notes that the growing adoption of 3P has prompted some expected resistance from engineers and managers accustomed to traditional engineering methods. "Invariably there is resistance from some team members, but that all gets worked out," says Godt.
He notes that first adopters tend to be small companies. "I learned 3P while working with small companies," says Godt. "They adopt it almost by default, since they don't have large departments with big budgets and lots of time."