Tools and Techniques from Lean and Project Management for New Product Development

The broad picture about the use of lean thinking and project management in New Product Development (NPD) was discussed here and here respectively. The two approaches have some similarities and differences as shown here. The bodies of knowledge about these two areas provide different tools and techniques, yet, not all of them are applicable to NPD.

The application of Lean to NPD includes tools like Value Stream Mapping (VSM) which was illustrated thoroughly by Haque and James-Moore (2004), McManus (2005), Parry and Turner (2006), and Morgan and Liker (2006). Visualization was addressed by Parry and Turner (2006), and Morgan and Liker (2006) and Lindlöf et al. (2013).  The importance of Standardization was discussed by Haque and James-Moore (2004) and Morgan and Liker (2006). 5C’s, the English version of the Japanese 5S  and stands for Clear out, Configure, Clean and Check, Conformity and Custom, was addressed by Haque and James-Moore (2004) and Parry and Turner (2006). The use of One-Piece Flow concept which is equivalent to having a cross-functional team in NPD was discussed by Haque and James-Moore (2004) and Morgan and Liker (2006). Obeya, where all team members set in one big room for brainstorming and problem solving, was highlighted by Morgan and Liker (2006) and Ellis (2016). In addition to that, the applications of tools such as A3 report, 5 Why analysis, Jidoka (autonomation) and Poka Yoke (mistake proofing) in NPD were highlighted by Morgan and Liker (2006).

On the other hand, the application of project management tools in NPD included the appreciation of projects’ selection methods when evaluating different projects under certain portfolio, and using financial calculations such as net present value alongside with the appropriate risk assessment (Barkley 2008). In addition to that, the literature included tools like Work Breakdown Structure (WBS) that was addressed by Pons (2008), Barkley (2008) and Ellis (2016). Task List was addressed by Barkley (2008) and Ulrich and Eppinger (2008). Time and Cost Estimates by Pons (2008). Gantt Chart by Pons (2008), Barkley (2008), Ulrich and Eppinger (2008) and Ellis (2016) Critical Path Method (CPM) and Critical Chain Method (CCM) by Barkley (2008). Program Evaluation and Review Technique (PERT) by Ulrich and Eppinger (2008) and Ellis (2016), and finally Earned Value Analysis (EVA) by Barkley (2008).

The purpose of this article is to examine the applications of these tools in NPD as summarized in the below figure.pic 2.jpg

It is worthy to mention that this is not an inclusive list. It is just a summary of the most common tools used in NPD according to the literature reviewed. The intent is to show the application of the above tools in the NPD in specific rather than providing comprehensive implementation steps.

Value Stream Mapping (VSM)

VSM is defined as “high-level description [graphical representation] of a business process used to perform analysis of the as-is state and help in developing the to-be state”. In the case of NPD, the analysis is targeting the transformation of information into the final design (Haque & James-Moore 2004). Morgan and Liker illustrated how to use PDVSM (Product Development Value Stream Mapping) in identifying the various types of waste and then working on eliminating them (McManus 2005, p.13; Morgan & Liker 2006, p.312). Several companies have implemented this tool in NPD successfully such as Rolls Royce, Airbus UK and Weston Aerospace (Parry & Turner 2006).

Poka Yoke

Poka Yoke can be used in NPD development in many ways. Morgan and Liker recommended using checklists, standard architecture, standard manufacturing processes, part quality matrices and standard detailed test plans (Morgan & Liker 2006, p.94). This concept has many advantages in the manufacturing side where it is combined with ‘inspection at the sourcephilosophy to improve the quality level, yet, in NPD, Toyota Company has used these tools to prevent errors that might happen during the NPD process and sustain a consistent performance (Morgan & Liker 2006, p.95).

A3 Report

A3 is one piece of paper report (A3 size) used to communicate progress and problems in a concise way and hence provides a better, faster and more precise communication (Morgan & Liker 2006, p.220). Toyota Company’s management used that report in four types: “proposal story”, “status story”, “informational story” and “problem-solving story” (Morgan & Liker 2006, p.270).


Different visualization techniques can be applied to NPD in order to facilitate visible communications. For example, Parry and Turner studied the use of ‘visual control boards’ to communicate results and even hold meetings around the board during progress review meetings. They provided successful applications for that in three companies; Weston Aerospace, Rolls Royce and Airbus UK (Parry & Turner 2006). In addition, Morgan and Liker discussed the use of ‘visual program management tools’ as part of the VSM to help the managers to identify problems and respond quickly  (Morgan & Liker 2006, p.355). Finally, Lindlöf et al (2013) studied how these visualization boards can be used to enhance the transfer of knowledge in NPD. As a result, information can be easily circulated and processed.


Standardization in NPD can be achieved by having “design standardization” such as modular design, “process standardization” such as having standards instructions and checklists and finally “engineering skill-set standardization” which covers the capabilities in the entire NPD team. These standardization approaches have been implemented in Toyota company (Morgan & Liker 2006, p.100). Haque and James-Moore (2004) discussed how standardization in NPD can result in a smooth flow of information and hence less waste in the process.


5C’s or 5S’s (Sort, Simplify, Sweep, Standardize, Set in order) can be used in NPD to create a leaner workspace (waste- free) (Parry & Turner 2006). For example, work space can be organized according to the required sequence of actives, kept clean and organized so an efficient flow of information can be achieved (Haque & James-Moore 2004).

Work Breakdown Structure (WBS)

WBS is a tool that is used to define all the work needed to complete the project by decomposing it into smaller units called ‘work package’. This will allow robust estimate for the time, cost and resources (Barkley 2008, p.61). A generic WBS is needed in NPD. Although uncertainties are high, this generic WBS will help to align the team on the scope of work that should be done (Barkley 2008, p.115; Ellis 2016, p.31). Despite these benefits, Pons concluded that the use of WMB might be difficult in highly innovative NPD, and argued that project management provide limited support to NPD and PMI (Project Management Institute) standards are not comprehensive (Pons 2008).

Task List

Task list or activity list shows all the activities that must be done to achieve the deliverables of the project (Project Management Institute 2008, p.144). This list should be the first step in planning the project as it serves the basis for the time estimate, the cost estimate and the risk identification. Ulrich and Eppinger argued that the uncertainties in NPD makes the creation of such a list is difficult. As a remedy, detailed identification is done for the near future and less- detailed identification is done for the far future (Ulrich & Eppinger 2008). The task list is the start point of forming a network diagram (Barkley 2008, p.117).

Gantt Chart

Gantt Chart is a bar chart representation of the tasks in the project (Barkley 2008, p.119). Ulrich and Eppinger discussed Gantt chart as one of the project management tools that can be used in NPD in which tasks and their relationships are presented and tracked through the project (Ulrich & Eppinger 2008, p.337). However, Pons argued that it is a good tool for traditional projects only and not for the highly innovative ones. He suggested using Gate Method and Concurrent Engineering. In addition to that, he recommended that the management should set clear expectations about the uncertainty in NPD and how that might affect the following steps in the project (Pons 2008). In order to overcome these limitations, Ellis (2016, p.108) suggested using Critical Path Method and Phase- Gate method as well.

Project scheduling and Network Diagram using CPM and PERT

A project schedule is viewed as the merger between tasks list and timeline. It includes the milestones, a start date/ an ending date for each task and will be used in monitoring and tracking the projects (Ulrich & Eppinger 2008, p.342). The network diagram is the outcome of identifying the tasks and sequencing them based on the logical relationships between them (Barkley 2008, p.118). In CPM analysis, the shortest possible project duration is determined based on the deterministic duration of the activities that have zero slack, and based on the probabilistic duration when PERT method is used (Project Management Institute 2008, pp.170, 176). Some scholars argued that such tools have limitations for highly innovative projects due to the difficulty in getting the right time estimate; therefore they addressed the use of the Phase-Gate approach to overcome these limitations (Pons 2008; Ellis 2016, p.139).

Earned Value Management (EVA)

EVM is a methodology used to monitor and control the project by combining the scope, schedule and resources in order to assess the progress of the project. EVM does that by analyzing three key inputs; ‘planned value’, ‘earned value’ and ‘actual costs’ (Project Management Institute 2008, p.217). Barkley presented  EVA as one of the points a project manager should address early in the monitoring and evaluating of the NPD projects (Barkley 2008, p.58).

Conclusions and Recommendations

As a conclusion, the six lean tools that were addressed above are recommended to be used in NPD as they have been implemented for such a purpose successfully. Companies such as Toyota, Weston Aerospace, Rolls Royce and Airbus UK have been implementing them in the NPD processes as well in their manufacturing processes. Lean product development can help the companies to achieve “Enterprise Lean Innovation” as well.

On the other hand, the uncertainty in NPD makes the usage of these tools very difficult and might not be applicable in complex and innovative product development. According to the literature reviewed, there was no clear example for implementing them successfully as stand-alone tools. As an enhancement, new theories such as Phase- Gate, Agile Project Management and Concurrent Engineering have been addressed in the literature to overcome these limitations. Having said that, project management cannot be neglected completely. A structured approach is still needed to manage the project’s resources (time, budget, team..etc) starting from selecting the right projects up to moving the project to the operations department in the implementation phase.


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