Kanban in Product Development Engineering

On the Internet, a huge amount of information on project management in the IT sphere and much less information on the practice of applying the project approach to product development in mechanical engineering.

This article will be of interest to specialists who are involved in managing the development of new products in the field of engineering and metalworking. The tool that I propose to use is kanban on the foundation of priorities.

When I first came to the company to work as a project manager (and this happened almost a year and a half ago), I was seated at a large negotiating table by the director and chief engineer and said: we have many projects and a lot of preparatory work has been carried out on them; as the saying
goes : - Pour it, drink it!

The director is a man of high flight, therefore all projects have been given high priority. A high priority, of course, implies taking on everything at once. But this does not happen in conditions of limited resources. For about a year, projects have come true: a little bit of everyone. As a result, over the year there was only one big and good product.

And so I started digging what tasks need to be solved before in order to effectively manage projects.

Task number 1: Formulate goals

The first important issue is the lack of stated goals. If there are no goals, then you can even not plan further.

Any activity begins with goal setting. Any company should have a goal. Based on the goals, the priorities of the projects are set. The vector of development, and accordingly the goals of the company, is formulated by the company's management. The first thing that needed to be done was to put the director and the chief engineer at the negotiating table in order to set goals. And so, I, the director and the chief engineer in a couple of meetings prioritized the projects.

At the end of February, work was completed on the project roadmap, in which each project was given importance. Importance is indicated by a number from 1 to 100. The larger the number, the more priority the project. This roadmap guides every member of the team in their daily activities. If there is a choice to do a task with importance 95 or with importance 89, then the task with importance 95 is performed first of all. Everything is quite transparent and clear.

After that, it became possible to start launching projects based on priorities, rather than blindly.

Task 2: Manage Limited Resources

The second important issue is limited resources.

In our company, about 30 projects of varying complexity (from standard with standard solutions to non-trivial ones that require the search for non-standard solutions) are permanently under development in our company. The project team consists of two design engineers, a technologist, a supply manager, a designer, a marketer, machine adjusting operators, a production manager, a technical writer (a total of 8-9 people). Thus, a conflict of resources naturally arises both within projects and between projects and operational activities. It is worth noting that the production of serial products (the so-called production) has the highest priority, since it is production that brings the company money.

I conducted a decision analysis: how to manage resources? Almost all the material on the Internet referred to the experience of IT companies in the field of project management. Having studied the information about agile, scrum, kanban, the classical method of project management and the experience of production companies that was in the public domain, it seemed to me that kanban was the most suitable for the realities of our production (hereinafter referred to as "kanban"). Soon a magnetic board measuring 1.8m x 1m was acquired, which turned into a kanban board. In addition, the kanban board also solved the task of visualizing project activities.

Task №3: Visualize the project activity

The third important issue is visualization and visibility.

By the time we started implementing the kanban principles, we had already used a powerful planning tool - this is Elma's business process management system. However, unfortunately, it is not so clear and the overall picture of the projects is not visible. Kanban board is a very convenient tool in visualization.

How is kanban board implemented?

Below I will give a brief summary of how the work with the kanban board is organized in our company.

The board is lined horizontally by resources. The number in brackets opposite the name indicates the number of tasks that can be performed simultaneously by one person (resource). The vertical columns indicate the main projects. There is also a common column for less priority projects at this stage.

In the lower right corner, priority projects are written from the highest to the lowest:

At the first stage of the implementation of the kanban board, tasks were indicated only by stickers with color differentiation. Our projects are divided into three stages (milestones):
- production of a prototype (pink sticker);
- preparation for the release of a pilot batch (orange sticker);
- release of a pilot batch and completion of the project (green sticker).

Intermediate tasks for which additional control is required are also highlighted with pale yellow.

The legend is displayed in the upper left corner of the board: The

sticker also has its own structure. The sticker shows the brief name of the project, its number and a brief summary of the task. The contents also indicate, if necessary, the deadlines for completing the task and the most important information: The

correspondence of the project to the number is posted on the right side of the board.

Every working day at 10.00, the team and I gather on the fly at the kanban board, where everyone answers three questions:
- What has been done over the past day?
- What problems have arisen?
- What is planned to be done for the coming day?

On the fly, ways to solve problems and problems are not discussed, but only problems are voiced; It is proposed to discuss the problems separately after the flight or in working order. Thus, firstly, the team is synchronized and it is always clear to everyone what is happening on the projects, and secondly, the human brain wakes up and is included in the work. In general, I even noticed for myself that my activity is increasing after the flies. At the same time, fly is a quick response tool and flexibility.

This model was borrowed from scrum:

For issues requiring a long and thorough discussion, we devote separate time to project meetings; it passes every Wednesday.

At some point, it became clear that there are still a lot of stickers for quick orientation. I suggested numbering each sticker with the numbers 1, 2, 3, 5, 8 (Fibonacci numbers, which are also often used to assess the complexity and / or duration of a task in a project activity). Each figure indicates the number of days that will be required to complete a particular task. The status of the numbers is updated directly by the task executor. Thus, on the fly you can quickly assess what tasks you need to ask the performer today. If it is 5 or 8, then the task is still in progress and it is not necessary to discuss it at the moment. If this is the number 1 or 2, then I ask the team member to talk about the status of the task, since according to the plan it is necessary to close it and transfer it to the next stage.

The numbers are printed with a white correction pencil on a flexible magnet. There are also magnets with the symbol "!" (attention, urgent, important, pay attention) and "||" (pause, task paused): The

sticker with the completed task moves to the ready column. And this means that the task can be transferred to the next executor.

Completed tasks are moved from the kanban board to a small board near the window so that you can always track the progress of the team.

Speaking about the effectiveness of this approach, it can be noted that in the first quarter of 2017, two large and complex projects and several small standard projects were closed.

According to Toyota, Kanban is a fine-tuning tool. So here we have the setup going on continuously and many more improvements will be made for convenient and efficient work.

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