From the Lean Factory to the Project Factory
The Lean Factory
The Lean factory is an optimised machine…
A Lean factory is an efficient machine. Lean drives efficiency through instituting Good Practice, which is then optimised by continuous improvement. Good Practice is the foundation stone of Lean.
A Lean factory may contain a number of production lines. For example, an automobile factory may produce both cars and minivans. Each production line is composed of a set of workstations. As the part-finished car advances along the production line, each workstation adds work or components to the part-assembled car.
Each production line is specialised (e.g. car or minivan), and so each has a specific high-level process. At each workstation (e.g. air-conditioning, paint shop), there are various standardised operations: these are low-level processes. Each such operation has its own Good Practice, optimised by the team through continuous improvement.
… which combines standards and flexibility
The modern automobile factory is highly flexible. A typical automobile factory customises each car to order (colour, options, engine, etc.). Each incoming order can be different.
To achieve this, each car follows an individualised routing through the production line. Each routing is different. For example, a car which has air-conditioning may pass an extra workstation, so its routing would be longer.
The Project Factory
The concept of the Project Factory is derived from the Lean Factory
A Project Factory may handle different types of project by using different Project Scenarios.
This is derived from Lean manufacturing
- a car factory may have production lines for cars and minivans
- an IT project factory may have Project Scenarios for software projects and infrastructure projects
Project Scenarios are high-level project templates. They are modules of Good Practice, designed for sharing and reuse.
Project Scenarios provide high-level standards. For example, an IT software project will normally use an IT software Project Scenario as its starting point.
Good Practice bricks
A Project Scenario is composed of Good Practice bricks
Again, the Project Factory is based on Lean Manufacturing:
- a car production line has workstations for the engine, gearbox, paint, etc.
- a software Project Scenario has bricks for software design, coding, testing, etc.
Each brick is a low-level module of Good Practice, designed for sharing and reuse.
Good Practice bricks provide low-level standards. For example, an IT software project which needs to do software testing would choose an appropriate brick of Good Practice for testing.
Libraries of Good Practice
Good Practice needs to be optimised over a period of time, by learning from experience.
In this case, there is a significant difference between the cycle times in the Lean Factory and in the Project Factory:
- In a Lean factory, product cycle times are quite short, so the factory develops its own Good Practices.
- In a Project factory, project cycle times are very long, so social networking is needed to develop Good Practices
Project Design adds flexibility
The Project Factory needs to reconcile standards and flexibility. Each project is different, each project needs to be designed individually.
- A production routing describes the route through the production line
- A Project Routing describes the route through the project
The Project Design activity takes the Project Scenario as an input. It then takes account of project-specific elements, such as:
- time, budget
- team size, ways of working
- specific deliverables
The resulting Project Routing is a reflection of proven standards (Good Practice), but customised to specific project needs.