We’ll be the first to tell you: there is a lot to be learned in the world of product design and development. From understanding and applying lean principles to grasping the specific uses of certain types of tools and equipment, we are presented with challenges and opportunities that are unique to our industry — and often on a daily basis.
For clients new to how we do things at SGW Designworks, here’s a breakdown of how we apply lean principles and how these impact our office environment.
At SGW Designworks, we operate under “lean” principles. As defined, “lean” is a production practice that considers the creation of value by eliminating wasteful inputs. This is a manufacturing management philosophy that is derived mostly from the Toyota Production System (TPS).
For us as product designers, developers, and engineers, a lean practice can translate to rapid outputs and using what is available to accomplish the desired outcome, rather than having a complete complement of top-end equipment.
5 Lean Principles
These are the five lean principles everyone in product development should know:
- Identify Value.
Value will be defined by our customers’ needs or project needs. Some things we consider when identifying value are the expectations that a product or client must meet, the product/project price point requirements, project timeline, etc. These are a few examples that are crucial when defining value.
- Map the value stream.
When the value or end goal has been defined, mapping every input that is necessary to deliver the output is the second step in the lean engineering process. The objective at this stage is to chart every step from raw material to the delivering of the final product — and then to identify and eliminate wasteful steps.
- Create a flow.
Once we have eliminated the non-value inputs, we check the remaining steps and make sure the remaining steps flow efficiently without any disruptions in the process.
- Establish pull.
Once we have improved project flow, we can accurately know how long it would take to deliver a project. This means our clients can trust that we will complete a job on time.
- Seek perfection.
Implementing the first four principles is half the battle. The lean principles are not a static thinking process. Rather, they are a revolving learning cycle. There is always room for improvement and we seek to create outputs that we can be proud of.
How Lean Principles Influence Our Core Values
In the SGW Designworks office environment, our core values are partly influenced by the lean principles mentioned above. As we engage in projects with clients, we implement the following into our processes:
At SGW Designworks, we like what we do — a lot. We are excited to be able to do this kind of work, and we love to help our clients. This comes through in our interactions, both inside and outside the office.
When a client says “I need a way to build thermal tiles for a flying space machine,” we strive to understand what they as a company are trying to do — beyond the words. We then aim to understand the challenges of the work, and what it might mean for the client. (Learn more about this scenario in our recent blog post: Product Engineering with Insight: The SGW Philosophy.)
We also work hard to understand the needs and emotions of the people that will interact with the products we develop. This helps ensure that the right features end up in the product.
Our team takes things we know about design, sales, and manufacturing and we apply these learnings in meaningful and innovative ways to get our clients what they need. We believe this makes us a top-tier engineering and design company. We constantly try to think about things in new ways and to think as part of a team.
We collaborate on projects, not just to get them completed on time but to get each task associated with the project done right. Additionally, we work together to teach each other new skills and share what we learn as we work through projects. We also collaborate with clients to ensure the work we’re doing is valuable to them and aligns with their business goals.
For starters, we try not to let deadlines sneak up on us. But we avoid surprises in many ways — from assembling something before it gets shipped (to make sure we have all the parts we need) to being mindful about how we communicate with clients to ensure we’re all on the same page.
You now have an idea of how we work with insight to apply the tools and techniques at our disposal. If you’re interested in revisiting topics we’ve explored that are related to insightful product development, you can find them here:
- Product Engineering with Insight: The SGW Philosophy
- From Sketch to CAD — The Engineer’s Drawing Board Then and Now
- Client vs. Product Design Companies: Two Perspectives
- Let’s Talk Machines: 10 Processes Used to make Product Prototypes
- Injection Molding vs. 3D Printing — Which One, When?
- Electronic Product Design and Development — And the Technology That Makes It Possible