Quick Lean Engineering: Increasing the Efficiency of a Research & Innovation Department
Approach 9 Nov. 2020

Quick Lean Engineering: Increasing the Efficiency of a Research & Innovation Department

Reported within the scope of R&D, a Lean engineering project commonly aims to eliminate waste from the upstream design of a solution, until its mass production. The fast-track approach proposed here by KEPLER aims to reduce the time it takes to realize the gains, focusing from the outset on the areas where teams waste the most time and resources. Quick Lean Engineering is obtained through a work-flow approach, addressing process after process the main stress points identified during a rapid diagnosis and immediately implementing simplification solutions.

Lean Sprint: An Agile and Efficient Approach and Methodology With a View to Generating Very Short-Term Gains.

A Concentrated Methodology

Initiated by a Flash Diagnosis stage setting the field of the possible and the constraint for improvement, the Quick Lean Engineering approach promoted by KEPLER is made up of Workshops (VSM) organized as soon as the diagnosis is made and allowing in the same week from:

  • Describe the existing,
  • Identify the main pain-points,
  • Formalize, in the form of objectives, the areas for improvement sought,
  • Map a simplified target process,
  • Detail the operational optimization solution and its implementation.

An Iterative Implementation

From the following week (Sprint approach), in an implementation logic, the customer teams are invited to immediately implement the solutions devised during the VSM and to update all the procedures that will be approved by Quality before proceeding. attack the following workflow.

If there is a new Workflow to optimize, the operation will be repeated with the implementation of a new VSM and an implementation on a new perimeter.

Lean, an Approach From the World of Operations

An organization engages in a Lean process when the latter wishes to eliminate the waste produced within it. The abundant literature on the subject recalls that there are eight types of potential waste, ranging from overproduction to the underutilization of human capital. In a context of performance research, Lean asserts itself as a means of:

Meeting demand exactly: the right items at the right time and in the right proportions as defined by the customer’s needs. No overdelivery or overdelivery.

Respond to it the first time: Quality as defined by the customer: by determining the root causes of non-quality, by encouraging suppliers to adhere to the process, by optimizing the design to avoid errors. We are talking about Quality Attitude.

Seek value (as defined by the client) in all actions taken:

  • Find better ways to deliver,
  • Train, coach, encourage teams,
  • Reward ideas,
  • Facilitate the implementation of improvements

Quick Lean Engineering vs. Lean Classic, What are the Differences?

Quick Lean Engineering, as its name suggests, intends to assert itself through accelerated implementation:

Operation in short loops between the description of the improvement solutions in the MSMs and their implementation in the quality system (thus avoiding the resource trap represented by the management of the action plan),

A “Scrum sprint” organization to accelerate the operational deployment and delivery of Quick Wins (eg Participation of Quality, HR, Communication actors in relevant VSM sessions, etc.).

-Integration of the challenges of supporting change from the outset in the project design and through the appointment of change agents for each major process.

An approach Made Possible by:

Typical Customer Context

Whether in complex industries or in the world of start-ups, Lean approaches are acclaimed for their ability to quickly and comprehensively approach and optimize the design and development processes of R&D teams.

  • The company ε has a fairly comprehensive set of processes and procedures, contributing to robust design, industrialization and project management.
  • Like many industrial organizations in different sectors, the company ε faces challenges of “development competitiveness”. It has decided to focus its short-term efforts on a specific lever – “lean processes”.
  • Workflow X is a key, complex workflow that interfaces with many other processes.
  • This X workflow presents opportunities for improvement, which makes it a good pilot application for a value chain mapping exercise.

Quick Lean Engineering R&D responses

Production of a Value Stream Mapping analysis on the X workflow,

Identification and quantification of potential savings and other improvement opportunities in the short and long term:

  • What can I stop doing?
  • What can I outsource?
  • What can I automate?
  • What can I simplify or do differently to be faster?
  • etc …

Definition of a simplified or optimized X process and recommendations for changes or organizational developments in order to sustain the gains obtained,

Implementation of recommendations on existing and future projects and management of transformation: resistance to change,

An Accelerated Process in Three Phases

A suite of workflows optimized in a few weeks.

  • Flash Diagnosis to understand the main sources of inefficiency,
  • Design of improvement solutions and simplified workflow VSMs sessions and Kaizens,
  • Implementation of solutions and “live” deployment on all projects in development
It is important not to proceed with an “in-room” Lean Engineering process. Co-construction with operational staff and the involvement of management is key to success.

From Diagnosis to Deployment, Two Weeks for a Workflow

Phase 1: Flash Diagnosis Upstream of VSM Workshops

The Flash Diagnosis, organized around a series of 1-to-1 meetings and a half-day workshop with the key actors of the project, allows to identify and assess, upstream, the main axes of improvement related to Workflow.

It validates the targeted quick wins and aligns the players on the prioritization of the solutions to be worked on. It is at this stage that the levers for improvement unrelated to workflow are also identified and validated.

Deliverables following Interviews:

Qualified improvement levers linked to the workflow and not linked to the workflow with the preliminary solution axes.

Following the Flash Diag:

  • Areas of solutions identified with savings objectives
  • Red zone formalized to clearly clarify the room for maneuver of operational actors in the workshop
  • Alignment of stakeholders with priorities
  • Structuring VSM sessions

Phase 2: VSM Workshops – 2 days

The objective of the VSM sessions is: the optimization of the Workflow analyzed according to the axes of the solution, the definition of detailed Kaizens (improvement solutions with deployment plan) with a very short-term implementation objective, for gains fast.

These Workshops also make it possible to assess the impacts and overall savings and to make recommendations on levers unrelated to the workflow (if applicable).

The Stakeholders Have the Following Deliverables:


  • New detailed formalization of the simplified Workflow,
  • Consolidation of hourly / hourly savings,
  • Formalization of Kaizen charters;
  • Recommendations on non-workflow / organizational issues (if applicable)

Phase 3: “Live” Implementation and Deployment on Projects

Based on Kaizens defined in a logic of short loop implementation, the approach has the virtue of allowing:

  • An acceleration of deployment thanks to the participation of Quality, HR, Com … actors in the VSM sessions,
  • The deployment of a new repository (inputs, outputs, activities, tools, etc.) on current projects,
  • Securing the achievement of savings objectives.

Templates, procedures and tools are updated and ready for “live” application to projects.

Specific deployment action plans are planned for solutions requiring more implementation time (organization and strategic topics, etc.).

Create, update models, procedures and tools, without waiting: the Quick version of R&D Lean Engineering!

An internal “agent of change”, a key player in the analyzed workflow …

… Is in charge of monitoring and implementing Kaizens. It ensures the “live” deployment of the proposed solutions (models, procedures, updating or creation of tools) and manages the action plan for better achievement in the medium term.

The Optimization Levers to Distinguish

Workflow vs. Non-Workflow

The levers directly linked to the sequencing of so-called workflow tasks offer recurring optimization potentials on so-called low added value tasks. These levers are the object of simplification and automation where possible. We are talking about Pure Lean.

Non-Workflow is a lever that is not linked to the sequencing of tasks and is therefore independent of the time horizon in which it intervenes.

Such a classification makes it possible to easily segment the categories of levers likely to be identified and to calculate savings in the right way: Cost Avoidance vs. Cost Optimization, over time.


  • Elimination of unnecessary or non-added value tasks,
  • Simplification, optimization of existing necessary tasks and activities,
  • Sequence of actions and interactions between functions impacting efficiency,
  • Reduction or elimination of manual tasks, automation.


  • Buying strategy
  • Sourcing strategy: traders vs manufacturers
  • Accelerated strategy: remote vs internal
  • Standardization
  • Material specifications
  • Standardization of specific parts
  • Support tools implementation
  • Smart factory
  • Reorganization

Structural vs. Preventive Savings

The levers that we identify or that we optimize with the team are either recurring over time or in response to a dysfunction.

When we talk about structural levers we are typically talking about a lever that will create efficiency over time for all the programs that follow.

The preventive levers also aim to reduce hours. Triggered in response to a malfunction, they do not systematically recur on all projects, but make it possible to fight against budget overruns

The structural improves the baseline, the preventive prevents the budget from slipping.

Six Must-Do for a successful Quick Lean Engineering R&D project

1) Define an Ambitious Top-Down Target: The Constraint

To succeed in a Lean Engineering process, you need a strong element of constraint. The message delivered to the teams must be unambiguous. Competitiveness issues: explicit.

“We must deliver not in 12 months but in 8”

This element of Burning Platform is a prerequisite for any successful transformation process.

2) Ensure Monitoring and Follow-Up of Gains During the Reflection

A key success factor in this type of approach, the data must be available and its evolution measured over the course of the process.

Throughout the project, the quantitative monitoring of the gains and improvements implemented in the project promotes group membership.

3) Adopt the Accountability Mindset: Questioning Current Practices

To be successful with a Lean Engineering type approach, you have to know how to get out of the common shortcut or common practice and put the functions in a position where they are responsible for the paradigm shift.

4) Act as a Multi-Function and Not as a Single-Function

It is very beneficial for a company to make a Lean Engineering R&D project a business initiative and not something just focused on a function.

It comes down to pointing fingers: to say it will be you engineering who will do Lean Engineering because you are inefficient. We recommend making it a cross-company approach.

5) Distinguish the Preventive From the Structural and the Workflow From the Non-Workflow

6) Secure the Notching and Application of the New Benchmark by Rapid Implementation




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