Lean Product Development Journey in Munters
Munters, a global leader and partner in energy efficient air treatment solutions, commenced their lean product development journey in 2011. The purpose? To decrease time to market, streamline R&D processes and ensure company’s vision flows throughout the organization.
To develop its lean product development implementation strategy, Munters performed a thorough assessment of the various elements including: R&D enablers, surrounding partners, strategy definition and alignment, usage of technical and planning tools, innovation capability, etc. The analysis helped Munters to develop a convincing roadmap which involved seven phases and focused strongly on strategy deployment and visual management.
Munters is one of the world’s leading suppliers of air treatment solutions. The company was founded in 1955 and since then, it has expanded from Stockholm, Sweden to more than 30 countries around the world. Munters AgHort division develops and manufactures energy-efficient climate control systems for the growth and development of agriculture and horticulture applications.
The Lean Product Development initiative started shortly after the Nordic Capital Fund VII acquired the company in 2010. The Lean Thinking approach was identified as the right fit to address specific challenges such as time to market, without increasing the amount of resources invested in the RD.
A long-term focus and short-term goals were agreed once Munters established the main phases of their lean implementation journey. Based on the analysis and recommendations of a consulting company hired by Munters, a Lean Product Development implementation roadmap was defined, which integrated seven main phases.
Through its journey, Munters established best practices in several aspects of Lean Product Development. These practices were identified and structured according to the four building blocks of the Lean Innovation Model. Below are just some of the best practices identified and described in the Munters chapter of the Lean Product Development Best Practices Book.
1) STRATEGY AND PERFORMANCE
Based on the outcomes of the initial assessment, carried out before the lean implementation plan was defined, R&D was given an objective to spend at least 70% of their available time on strategic projects focusing on R&D activities, rather than performing supporting activities not directly related to innovation.
To start implementing and achieving this desired outcome, the Hoshin Kanri methodology and its “Catch-ball” approach were implemented to help employees at all levels follow the same vision. Different KPIs, such as time dedicated to projects and pre-studies, number of patents, and time to market, were defined to monitor the achievement and success of the innovation projects after the lean implementation.
2) SKILLED PEOPLE AND COLLABORATION
To ensure the R&D employees were adequately skilled, tailored lean training sessions were delivered at the beginning of the implementation. In addition, intensive coaching has been put in place for the first year to ensure employees are sufficiently trained and in applying lean principles and tools successfully.
3) EFFICIENT PRODUCT DEVELOPMENT PROCESS AND KNOWLEDGE BASED ENVIRONMENT
Various Knowledge Intensive Innovative Work/Visible Planning (KI/VP) tools were successfully deployed in Munters R&D in all European offices during the first year of implementation. These included:
- Hoshin Kanri (Vision-mission-goals)
- Visual boards
- Key Performance Indicators (KPIs)
- Issue log and problem solving
- PDCA cycle
- Deviation log
Teams applied the culture of fact-based decisions and conducted meetings in “situation rooms” twice a week. Munters launched a special project to enable cross-functional collaboration, which encourages working in a project development team from the beginning to identify potential problems and help eliminate them.
4) CONTINUOUS IMPROVEMENT AND CHANGE
The PMO, a change-management office function, was created within Munters in order to manage change. This function played a key role during the early implementation phase when communication of the lean implementation and its related action plan required from Top Management to the Operations team was of extreme importance.
Munters reported great benefits obtained as a result of the lean implementation. KPIs show that the R&D spent more time on new product development and less on unrelated support tasks (as defined in the pre-implementation strategy). In addition, development costs savings and time-to-market reduction were also obtained. The company also reduced the number of development projects and an increased the number of pre-studies with the criterion “Fail soon, fail cheap”.
The company culture and job atmosphere have improved and most importantly, employees in the Munters R&D team have changed their way of working, adapted the lean tools, and recognized that lean thinking is beneficial both to achieve their personal delivery targets and those of the company reaching a win-win continuous improvement mindset.
Munters’ Best Practices are presented and described on more than 25 pages in the Lean Product Development Best Practices book. Munters’ chapter is only one out of the 10 chapters presenting the real-world application of lean product development in multinational companies.
The hard copy of the book with the 10 cases is available for only 74.99 EUR.
Munters’ Lean Product Development case is available digitally free of charge to our members.
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About the Authors
Lean Analytics Association
Matic has over 5 years of experience in working with global organizations from various industrial sectors, either leading or supporting the development and introduction of bespoke lean innovation and new product development solutions. Over the past years, Matic has co-developed a framework to enable better, faster and more integrated innovation across the entire value chain, enabling companies to maximize their innovation capability and deliver truly customer-centric products and services, while minimizing the risk of market failure.
Matic is a certified Service Design Thinking Facilitator, and the creator of the Set-Based Integrated Innovation Business Game co-developed with a multinational Swiss company. He completed his Master’s degree in Global Product Development and Management at Cranfield University in 2012.
Matic is a co-author of the Lean Product Development Best Practices book, and several journal and conference publications. He regularly appears as a speaker and workshop holder at various lean, product development and innovation conferences.
Lean Analytics Association
Dr. Flores has over 20 years of experience collaborating as internal or external consultant in different manufacturing and services organizations, leading several initiatives related to Lean Thinking, Business Process improvement, Six Sigma, Supply Chain, Change Management, Open Innovation, Digital Transformation and Human Centered Service Design; providing also training and coaching.
She is co-founder and president of the Lean Analytics Association (LAA) and visiting scholar at the College of Management of the Ecole Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL) in Switzerland.
She carried out her Post-doc at EPFL collaborating at the Lean Product and Process (LeanPPD) FP7 European project from 2009 to 2013. She completed her PhD in 2006 at the Politecnico di Milano studying Open Innovation Models to enable Industry-University collaboration for innovation. She obtained her Master’s Degree in Manufacturing Systems in 1999 and a Bachelor’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering from Monterrey Tec (ITESM) in 1996.