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CMI Defence’s Lean Product Development Journey


Continuous growth and market demanding shorter development times, lead CMI Defence, a weapon systems manufacturer from Belgium, to transform its product development approach. In 2013, the company embarked on its Lean Product Development journey by setting up for lean. This initial step aimed at producing a strategic roadmap for the implementation of different lean product development enablers to systematically develop, implement and roll-out several smaller improvement initiatives including the application of set-based concurrent engineering (SBCE), A3 thinking for problem-solving, agile project management and putting in place effective training and coaching methods.

CMI DefenceCMI Defence is one of the world’s leading companies in multifunctional, high-effect weapon systems for light and medium weight armored vehicles. CMI Defence is a part of the CMI Group, which in 2014 generated nearly 900 million euro, 38% of which came from CMI Defence with the remaining 62% spread evenly among the Group’s three other sectors.

A constant demand for shorter development and lead times, including several day-to-day business issues, coupled with company’s continuous growth was a clear indicator that a change was needed. CMI Defence found an answer for increasing its product development efficiency applying Lean Product Thinking practices.

Being a growing organization means there is a need for continuous improvement if this growth is to be sustained. CMI Defence embarked its lean product development journey in January 2013. Before the kick-off of the lean initiative, CMI Defence identified several challenges, which later helped the organization form a strategic plan for the introduction and application of various lean methods, tools and techniques.

The starting point of the CMI Defence’s journey was an activity called “lean set-up”, which aimed at producing a strategic roadmap for the implementation of different lean product development enablers. This resulted in systematic development, implementation and roll-out of several smaller improvement initiatives such as set-based concurrent engineering (SBCE), A3 thinking for problem-solving, agile project management, the development of a “lean mindset” across the engineering department and more.

CMI Defence Lean Journey
CMI Defence’s Lean Product Development Journey

Throughout its lean journey, CMI Defence 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 CMI Defence chapter of the Lean Product Development Best Practices Book.


In the past, CMI Defence used an engineered-to-order (ETO) system to develop new products, due to the high complexity and individuality of their solutions. However, it takes a long time for a complex product to be engineered to order and, with customers demanding their products in shorter and shorter times, CMI Defence decided to make a shift from ETO to a system closer to configure-to-order (CTO). This shift allowed CMI Defence to develop and implement a platform design, enabling parts standardization and categorization.


The combination of platform design and SBCE constitutes a very complex approach and, as such, it requires highly trained people skilled of using it, and maximizing its potential. For that reason, CMI Defence invests heavily in training and education of its management and engineering teams. The teams often attend one-day conferences, workshops and courses with world-renowned lean product development specialists. Product Development teams also experiential trainings, such as learning by using serious games, which are fun and engaging, and therefore, often yield more impressionable and lasting results.


A shift from ETO to CTO system permitted the development and implementation of a platform design paired with a set-based concurrent engineering (SBCE). While SBCE can ensure a high level of innovativeness at a reduced risk, a platform design can provide common parts and modules in order to reduce the time to market. In 2015 CMI launched a pilot project for a medium-caliber feeding system to further explore SBCE and the opportunities it offers. As a result, CMI Defence developed a brand new, patent pending, design which would have very unlikely been developed using their traditional processes and tools.


CMI’s key contribution to their continuous improvement journey focuses on a constant standardization of the design practices. This is achieved by using Standard Operating Procedures (SOP), which are generated, regularly reviewed and updated, and released in alignment with the top management.

Consolidated best practices as identified in CMI Defence, structured around the Lean Innovation Model

Book 2017 - Mockup 01 (small-900px)

CMI Defence’s Best Practices are presented and described on more than 25 pages in the Lean Product Development Best Practices book. CMI Defence’s 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.


CMI Defence’s Lean Product Development case is available digitally free of charge to our members.


Interested to become a member?


About the Authors

MGolob 2016 (Profile Rounded) B&W

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.

CMI Group

Olivier Carlens is a Deputy Group CTO for CMI, a Belgian diversified group involved in Defense, Energy, Industry, Environment and Services. He previously worked for the CMI Defence, a CMI Group subsidiary, and other Belgian Defense companies. His experience includes Project Management, Systems Engineering, Product Development and Innovation Management.

Olivier received a Master of Sciences in Ballistics and Weapon Engineering from the Royal Military Academy of Belgium, a MBA from Vlerick Management School and a Master of Sciences in technology Management from the Open University.


Myrna Flores

Lean Analytics Association

Dr. Flores has over 20 years of experience collaborating as internal or external consultant in different manufacturing and services organizations leading different strategic initiatives related to Lean Thinking, Business Process improvement, Six Sigma, Supply Chain, E-business, Digital Factory, Change Management, Open Innovation and 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).

She completed her PhD on Industrial Engineering in 2006 at the Politecnico di Milano, her Master’s Degree in Manufacturing Systems in 1999 and a Bachelor’s Degree in Mechanical Engineering from Monterrey Tec (ITESM) in 1996.

CMI DefenceLAA Interview at CMI Defence in Liège, Belgium for the Best Practices Discovery Project

Myrna Flores
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