Friday, February 8, 2013

3M’s Lean Product Management

3M’s Lean Product Management

3M implemented Lean product management approach by understanding the strategies and resources that resulted in significant improvements in service level,inventory turns and cost metrics. In the market and industry of large amount of different products and high demand variability, the synergistic role of the Six Sigma and the Theory of Constraints methodologies is imperative. In its Brazilian plant, 3M followed the Lean methodology which includes practice like just-in-time, quality control, work team, cellular manufacturing, supplier management and Value Stream Map. The product management for Lean approach has been started in automobile sector and hence same improvements was very difficult to apply on abrasive and electronic products. But 3M focuses on multiple aspects of a single product value stream rather than focus on specific functional departments.

Hence 3M implemented –

Change Management -  3M’s management assess its current competitive position in industry and develop ‘sense of urgency’ to manage the change and at the same time align it with company’s objective. Then management made sure to communicate the desired future with company employees and investors which increased the involvement.

External and Internal Bench-marking -  This helped in defining the priorities, allocating consultants and promoting networking for knowledge exchange. The implementation group was also focused on controlling the operational indicators for service level and inventory in all plants.

Pulled production - Plants with high number of products and high number of make-to-order items  have been shifted towards market  for better utilization. Kanban approach improved inventory turns quickly. The following replication projects then implemented pulled production in the processes near the suppliers.

Extended Value Stream Maps - 3M planned for  products currently in production and for future products being planned. Balancing the equation of orders coming upstream from customer and products going down from value stream,  3M effectively managed supplier and market for current and future products.

3M started this change in Brazilian subsidiary and then implement this worldwide which resulted in mix of short-term benefits and lasting improvements. This initiative was not a top down approach but was started by local supply chain director in Brazilian subsidiary but the results were evident enough to propagate the Lean initiative throughout the organization.

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