Lean Production Preparation Process (3P)

Recently, I visited an automotive electrical OEM to review their working supermarket for controlling work-in-process. As amazing as this was to observe supermarket in action, the standout moment for me was to be shown a mock-up of the future assembly line, at full scale and made from materials found on site; lots of cardboard, drums, foam, and wire.

This full-scale mock-up has many benefits when developing a new process. This Lean process of mocking-up is called “3P” (Production Preparation Process) and is a powerful and transformative lean manufacturing tools. The 3P process brings together a cross-functional group that includes product designers, manufacturing engineers, quality engineers, and key operators to explore in detail each transformation step.


Aerospace manufacturers like Boeing (pictured) use the 3P process from design to commercialisation.


Under Taking 3P

To undertake the 3P process and to do it well I find that it takes a company that has had a good recorded of implementing lean systems. Having done many Kaizen events on current process and now have learnt the skills to attack wastes from a new perspective. The 3P process is a structured method to go deeper into understanding everything about the product and processes required to manufacture it.

The 3P Process prefers to look towards nature for design options, where processes are naturally waste free. This direction reduces the complexity of the production process and often results in the development of right-sized equipment that supports lower material and energy requirements.  By following the 3P method a small cross-functional team can develop simpler processes/products that they have constructed basic mock-ups, tested and measured their ideas before committing to any additional costs.  This experimentation shortens the installation time and is a great tool for providing better decision making that is based around a mock-up that can be explored.



The basic steps for a 3P event are;

  1. Define theme and scope of your project: Think about what you wish to accomplish, not what is currently being done.
  2. Use keywords to define Functions: Roll, Lock, Drill, Swivel
  3. Develop Sketch options: Sketch examples, examine, research and work as a group to look deeply into the functions required.
  4. Evaluate the Process: Each of the sketches is evaluated to a set criteria.
  5. Build:  Build full scale mock-ups of the top three sketches and evaluate.
  6. Conduct trials: Perform trials on mock-up to collect real time data, combine the best features and evaluate each proposal.
  7. Proceed to Trial: Have the final design mock-up tested by more of the production team to review and improve on any missing ideas.
  8. Proceed to implement new process: Develop the action plan for proceeding after the 3P team finished.

Robert Chittenden

Author: Robert Chittenden

Robert Chittenden is a Senior Lean Consultant at TXM Lean Solutions