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Lean Thinking and Product Innovation in the Furniture Industry

[+] Author Affiliations
Albertina Pereira Medeiros

UDESC, Florianópolis, SC, Brazil; Porto University, Porto, Portugal

Silene Seibel

UDESC, Joinville, SC, Brazil

Renato Natal Jorge, António Augusto Fernandes

Porto University, Porto, Portugal

Paper No. DETC2009-86630, pp. 1155-1162; 8 pages
doi:10.1115/DETC2009-86630
From:
  • ASME 2009 International Design Engineering Technical Conferences and Computers and Information in Engineering Conference
  • Volume 8: 14th Design for Manufacturing and the Life Cycle Conference; 6th Symposium on International Design and Design Education; 21st International Conference on Design Theory and Methodology, Parts A and B
  • San Diego, California, USA, August 30–September 2, 2009
  • Conference Sponsors: Design Engineering Division and Computers in Engineering Division
  • ISBN: 978-0-7918-4905-7 | eISBN: 978-0-7918-3856-3
  • Copyright © 2009 by ASME

abstract

The pressure to innovate has been particularly strong in industry traditional sectors if they are to survive to competitors with lower labour costs. Furniture has become a commodity product in some international markets. In most countries the furniture industry is highly fragmented and family owned. In this context the decision to introduce and launch new products rests solely on the owner, without considering the costumer needs. At the same time, the companies do not have an organizational structure and a formal process for managing new product development (NPD). In recent years “lean thinking” has gained increased popularity as a new paradigm of product design and manufacturing. This is due to the success which Toyota attained worldwide. The present research, still in progress, aims to answer the following research question: “Can lean thinking principles, methods and tools be applied in product development in a traditional sector such as the furniture industry?” To answer this question a research programme has been designed based on a cross-case analysis in two distinct cultural settings: the Portuguese and Brazilian furniture industries. Two in-depth case studies are in progress in two firms (one in Portugal and another in Brazil). The research programme is focused on the following principles: organize to balance functional expertise, to establish customer defined value, front load the product development process and to use tools for standardisation. The application of these principles has as its main goal to eliminate waste during the process chain and attain excellence. The first phase of the work looked into the subsystem People, with particular emphasis on the organizational structure. The preliminary results, obtained up to now, show that there is no formal product development system currently in place in the studied companies. This results in an inefficient flow of information in all phases of the product development, leading to numerous sources of waste.

Copyright © 2009 by ASME

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