Lean thinking at its best, A Good Example


When you create value in the early stage of a product life cycle, the end product will show higher value than doing it later in the product’s life cycle. For an example if we “design” something lean, it will need less resource to produce, less need for marketing and so on. But in contrast if we try making the product “manufacturing” lean for a non-lean design, still it will give you some results, but it will not be as good as in the first case. Today, I am not going in to the lean design concept. If you want to learn more you may refer old articles on this site. Today, I am going to show you an example of how lean thinking can generate unthinkable results.

If your vehicle does 300miles per gallon of gasoline will you be happy? Of course you will. But it is impossible right? Yes, with traditional wisdom. But one car (or in this case a machine which takes people from one place to another) says they do that. This car manufacturer is “Aptera”. It is not this massive mileage forced me to write this article, but the thinking behind it.

On a video on YouTube, the founder talks about why vehicles do not do well on fuel. A typical car would go about 30 miles per gallon. But where the energy goes? Is it on the primary goal of taking you from point A to Point B, with all the comfort you need? No, according Aptera. Energy is wasted (Waste is the keyword) fighting wind resistance. Your wipers, your side mirrors and the grill and virtually everything fight with the wind to take you forward. In the process you lose much of the energy. In addition, you waste energy in breaking and in deceleration especially in city limits. So instead of using energy in our primary goal in an effective manner, you fight with other problems and get nowhere with the primary objective. But when you define your goal correct and identify the current problems, the picture changes. Seemingly unthinkable looks extremely possible. Isn’t this familiar? Isn’t this where most of the organizations struggle with? And isn’t this the problem lean try to address?

Lean suggests you analyze, categorize your activity from the eye of your customer. And lean suggests you get away from the wastes and continuously improve on productive activities. This is exactly what this new auto manufacturer has done. They have applied this thinking so early in their product life cycle, so they get huge leverage. They have eliminated the problem of wind resistance with a space age design. They reuse energy when lost in breaking. They get support from wind instead of fighting it. It shows on the results they get. They get almost 10 time fuel efficiency. And their design is revolutionary in looks. But it has a great cabin space and a boot of the size of a Honda Accord. And the end product is much lighter and super strong. All these results once thought be not possible became possible at once.

So what is the moral of the story?

Think lean, think early, you will achieve great heights.

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