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September 2, 2014


In today’s environment it is common place for every company to look at ways to be more “lean.” Every organization I visit is always looking at ways to reduce waste as well as improve their deliverables to ultimately be more productive. They all seem to have a similar vision and yet have very unique strategies.

What surprises me is that many teams I talk to are focusing on improving the core area of what their team does and not the peripheral tasks required by their team. For example, many design and engineering teams look at how they can create a more comprehensive product in a shorter amount of time. However, they often overlook the improvements which can be made on the activities which are outside of “engineering” and are still an essential part of what they do. Some examples are:

  1. Printing work package deliverables
  2. Generating output to drive production machinery such as CNC plate and profile
  3. Generation of a several consumable versions of the BOM such as an Excel file for various departments
  4. Creation of a native DWG, STEP, SAT file for stakeholders which do not have the same CAD authoring tool
  5. Create design review and production review models
  6. Generate output for the production team work package such as assembly drawings, spool drawings, isometrics, arrangement drawings, workshop drawings
  7. Creating reports for lifting and turning
  8. Creating reports for purchasing and management
  9. Creating deliverables required by the owner such as STEP, SAT, PDF, or pure native DWG files
  10. Creating information (3d Models and related data) for other teams such as welding, planning and production, painting and coating, weight management and control
  11. Creating models for subcontractors which contain the information they need to do their job but does not give any more IP than what is required. The removed IP can be relationships, associativity, catalog information, portion of the model, production trade secrets, etc.
  12. And the list goes on…

The amount of hours spent on these type of tasks are huge and because they are not the core activities of what engineering does, it is often overlooked in the teams “lean initiative.” Improving these activities not only reduces the amount of hours required, it will also allow the engineering team to spend more of their time doing engineering rather than these mundane activities.

This extensive use of time effects the whole organization not just engineering. Engineering is one of the main producers of information and this information needs to be consumed by many other stakeholders.


One of Lean’s eight deadly wastes is Waiting. How often are stakeholders from other departments waiting on output which only engineering can generate? It is a common occurrence for me during a site visit that someone asks engineering for a piece of information which only the engineering team can currently generate. This can be a BOM for purchasing, a 3D model of a particular portion of the vessel for review, weight and CG reports or even just the latest version of a previous delivered package.

The waste of Waiting is much more than just the time waiting; it includes the time it takes to get refocused on the task after receiving the information as well as the additional management of outstanding tasks.

Closing remarks

When you are trying to be leaner, you will need to look beyond your core activities and evaluate your peripheral activities. In many cases there are a lot of low hanging fruit which can significantly increase your productivity with very little effort and disruption to your organization.

These improvements will allow your team to spend less time on activities that do not require you to tie up skillful personnel who can be better utilized fulfilling other tasks.

The amount of time people are waiting for information is the silent efficiency killer. Not having the information you need when you need it is similar to being interrupted.

In my next post I will talk about how you can manage and automate these tasks as well as empower all stakeholders to have the capability of generating the information they need. This will minimize the amount of time wasted generating this information and eliminate stakeholders waiting for any information.

Post Comments

  1. Michael Viala says:

    That’s what SSI calls EMPOWERED ENGINEERING.

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