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Lean PD Best Practices: CAREL

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CAREL launched the Lean Product Development initiative in 2009 and has come a long way since.

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CAREL is one of the world leaders in control solutions for air-conditioning, refrigeration, and heating, as well as systems for humidification and evaporative cooling. Its mission is to bring energy savings and reduce the environmental impact of machinery and systems.

In order to increase its competitive advantage, CAREL launched the Lean Product Development initiative in 2009 and has come a long way since. This initiative originated from the need to ensure the continuous growth of the organization. Its initial goal was to improve delivery times. To kick-off this initiative, CAREL employed an external consulting company and later built a strong relationship with two Italian universities to ensure state-of-the-art approaches and methods.

Through its journey, CAREL established best practices in several aspects of Lean Product Development. Its two particularly strong practices followed involve skilled people and effective processes. CAREL heavily invests in the continuous training of its employees, especially of R&D teams which are so effective they count on average only between 4 and 5 people. Each employee has a personal training program and is encouraged to increase at least one competence per project. CAREL is also one of the few organizations which initiated the implementation of set-based concurrent engineering at an early stage of the lean journey and has already completed two pilot projects successfully.

One of the methods CAREL introduced right at the beginning of its lean journey is visual project planning and management. For that, R&D teams use one physical board per project to lay out the project plan, and this board serves as a weekly meeting point, a monthly progress meeting point with higher management and a live document which is used by team individuals to track themselves, their tasks and their team’s progress.

Last but not least, CAREL maintains well-established continuous improvement activities, from 5S to PDCA, where each employ spends 80% of their time on the project and 20% on continuous improvement activities for their specializations. This approach resulted in three-hour savings in cycle times for every hour invested in continuous improvement.

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