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6 years ago

Cellular Manufacturing and Software Development

I’m digging into Lean Manufacturing and it’s so interesting to learn manufacturing history and its trends. There are so many parallels between manufacturing and software development. Of course they are not direct, but a curious mind can draw them quite easily. Let’s take Cellular Manufacturing as an example.

Cellular Manufacturing is a workspace organization technique. The main principle is to organize production of a single product in a small dedicated unit (cell) that consists of several people and several workstations. The benefits are surprisingly huge:

“The result is very fast throughput. Communication is easy since every operator is close to the others. This improves quality and coordination. Proximity and a common mission enhance teamwork.”

It is a significant improvement over the functional space configuration, when you have large queues and long transition time.

Now, if we think about software development, it is becoming clear why distributed teams have problems and why functional departments will not survive in the near future.

Cellular manufacturing applied to software development directly leads to cross-functional teams that work on a single project. Cell is a single team that has its own inventory and cross-trained people. Expanding it further, it means that developers should be able to do testers’ job, and vice versa.

From lean perspective, managers job is to setup cells configuration efficiently. It is not required to track individual work, but to track cell work instead. It brings process optimization to a higher level and powers system thinking.

It is really amazing how much we can extract from lean manufacturing and adopt this knowledge to software development…

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  • AndrewGolik

    “it means that developers should be able to do testers’ job, and vice versa.”
    Sound like building software is so simple so that even testers are able to do programming's stuff. There are even some programmers I don't want them doing specific tasks. Reality is complexity of software. Some people think that agile approach will handle tech issues as well. It's completely wrong. Agile and lean specially is all about communication, flow, and signaling.

    I have neighbor he works at factory. He is charged with routine tasks that are rare changed. The same happen to his colleague but with another routine. I think they could really help each other due to simplicity of tasks. Let's take a look at level higher, at the top engineers. Are they so simply replaceable? Can engineer immediately be effective in helping to another engineer?

    Software developing is in middle I think. We must think in both ways to obtain agility.

  • Michael Dubakov

    The idea here is to be able to do work of the next phase. For example, developer may test stories and verify bugs, and developer may do some UX activities. Same way it is good if tester can do some developers job (but I understand that in current IT state it may be hard and expensive). The goal is to have multi-skilled people in team.

  • financial coaching

    Great Buddy how you know about this in very details, it is really very interesting and knowledgeable things.

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