A general holistic framework, also called a process - named "Lean Product Development Flow (LPDF)" - for organizing the engineering work of Product Development (PD), has been proposed as a contribution to the emerging field of Lean Systems Engineering. The framework is based on Lean Principles, with emphasis on PD value-pulling workflow pulsed by takt periods. The value is defined as (1) mission assurance/product quality, (the traditional goals of Systems Engineering) and (2) reduced program cost and schedule achieved by a radical reduction of waste. LPDF is recommended for smaller design programs based on a high degree of legacy knowledge, with technologies mature enough so that the program feasibility is not in question. LPDF may involve limited-scope research, provided that it can be identified early in the program, and carried out separate from the main workflow. The paper is focused on aerospace and defense programs, which are presently burdened with as much as 60-90% of waste, but the process is also applicable to commercial programs. LPDF can be applied to the entire PD, to one or more milestones, and to a multilevel program. LPDF requires both detailed preparations and disciplined execution. The preparations include detailed Value Stream Mapping, separation of research from the main workflow, parsing of the Value Stream map into Takt Periods, architecting the LPDF team using dynamic allocation of resources, and team training. LPDF execution is organized as a flow through a series of short and equal work Takt Periods, each followed by an Integrative Event for structured, comprehensive coordination. Strategic and flexible tactical mitigations of uncertainties must be applied during the flow. LPDF also requires excellent leadership of a Chief Engineer, modeled after Toyota and Honda, who is a dedicated program "owner," an expert systems designer, a strong leader focused on the program and product integrity, and skilled in consensus-building. The Chief Engineer is responsible for the entire program, with Assistant Chiefs assisting in selected technical areas, and a Project Manager assisting with program administration. An industrial pilot program is currently being undertaken to validate the method. © 2004 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
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