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Adopting Japanese lean management in European product development

Industry must find innovative approaches to meet the challenges of new product development (NPD). An EU initiative considered a streamlined strategy to develop products more efficient, inspired by successful practices of Japanese firms, to buoy the automotive and other sectors in Europe.
Adopting Japanese lean management in European product development
Japan's lean management concept can provide excellent insight into how best to streamline European industry. The EU-funded LEAP (Lean development – New principles for innovation management and a more time and cost efficient development of novel products) project explored new principles related to lean management and investigated a more time-efficient and cost-effective strategy for NPD.

The project team documented the state of the art in the field through interviews, publications, online resources and four research visits to Japan. It produced a working paper on the barriers and challenges in lean product development (LPD), identifying areas for further research as well.

Project members developed a framework that outlined objectives, methods and approaches to LPD, prioritising five key research areas in the field.

A global network of lean researchers and experts was established, visiting and collaborating with firms, academics and researchers in Japan to gain important knowledge on the implementation of LPD practices. Findings showed that the success of lean management in NPD is dependent on several factors. These include management's long-term commitment to LPD practices, correct choice of appropriate tools for positive results, and the expert transfer and handling of LPD practices and tools from production to NPD.

The findings were disseminated via articles and presentations at conferences and discussions with academia and industry. Workshops and company visits provided an opportunity to examine various lean approaches and tools and the means to utilise them in an NPD context.

LEAP shed light on how Japanese LPD approaches can be transferred, tailored and applied to NPD in European companies. Production and manufacturing industries now have the option of developing new products and learning how to stay competitive by employing methods rooted in Japanese business culture.

Related information


Lean management, product development, innovation management, lean product development
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