Original Date: 09/14/1998
Revision Date: 01/18/2007
Best Practice : Agile Improvement Process
Raytheon Missile Systems Company (RMSC) began implementing its Agile Initiative in 1995 as a means to improve performance, and eliminate waste in a rapidly growing and changing company. The company developed its approach through benchmarking and by adapting proven concepts to fit its culture. RMSC wanted to develop a manufacturing system that was both lean and flexible, and based its Agile Initiative on an adaptation of General Motor’s and Toyota’s Competitive Manufacturing Principles. The lean element is focused on eliminating waste wherever it occurs. The agile element is focused on creating a capability to quickly react to the changing environment by becoming highly responsive to customer needs; utilizing speed as a competitive advantage; and reducing manufacturing lead times by 50%.
RMSC developed a seven-phase systematic approach to improve quality, cost, responsiveness, and customer satisfaction through the elimination of waste and the total involvement of all employees. The seven phases of the agile processes are broken down into 45 steps (or strategies) to implement the phases. In addition, there are hundreds of substeps which provide detailed task-by-task descriptions of activities. All of these components are tailored for implementation in each of the major manufacturing areas and centers of the company. Since 1995, the process has been implemented, or is in the process of being implemented, in 15 factories within RMSC. Each factory is committed to implementation, and began the process with the assistance and guidance of the company’s agile planning team. The agile planning team works with each factory to train and establish a 15-member core team. The core team then establishes other teams within the factory, and conducts training, benchmarking, strategic development and planning, and other activities and processes needed to implement agile and lean concepts in the factory. This approach is designed to lead to a complete cultural change within a six- to twelve-month period.
Significant improvements have been made in all factories through the implementation of the Agile Initiative. RMSC believes that this approach was a key enabler leading to the company winning the 1997 Arizona Governor’s Award for Quality. Since 1995, RMSC has made rapid strides in making the Agile Initiative an integral part of the enterprise which is embedded in every aspect of manufacturing. This approach provided RMSC with the capability to thrive in a continuously and unpredictably changing environment, as well as the ability to operate profitably in the company’s many competitive markets. As implemented at RMSC, the Agile Initiative offers a structured, sensible, easy-to-follow process with extensive documentation and training. The process focuses on fixing problems rather than working around them, and encourages operator involvement. In addition, this initiative produced major reductions in cycle times, inventory, and WIP as well as standardized processes and techniques. The Agile Initiative continues to be a successful approach to eliminating wasteful practices while responding effectively to changing business and customer requirements.
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