Lean transformation

Lean manufacturing principles could be applied throughout the entire product cycle, saving costs and reducing waste.

This is the goal of a Cranfield University-led consortium that is embarking on a four-year, £7m project entitled ‘Lean Product and Process Development’ (LeanPPD).

The consortium, which includes Rolls-Royce, will attempt to develop a new business model and tools that could help European manufacturers implement lean-thinking principles from design to disposal and reuse.

Ahmed Al-Ashaab, the project’s technical committee chair and a lecturer in decision engineering at Cranfield, said: ‘In order for an enterprise to improve performance there is a need for the whole organisation to undergo a lean transformation.’

Al-Ashaab will be working in Cranfield University’s Design Engineering Centre, which is headed by Rajkumar Roy, a professor of competitive design. Roy said Al-Ashaab and his research team will focus on reducing waste during the design stage. Such waste includes instances when engineers rework or duplicate their projects.

He added: ‘The consortium will try to develop processes and software prototypes that will help people design better and reduce design lead time.

‘You might spend a lot of effort designing certain products, but if you can reduce the design effort then that would be reflected in the overall cost of the product. If you can improve the efficiency of the design activity as a whole there is a better chance you’ll be able to incorporate all aspects like sustainability issues at the design stage.’

The LeanPPD consortium has 12 European partners from six countries and consists of several European universities, research centres and industrial partners, including Indesit and Volkswagen.

Siobhan Wagner