Understanding System Engineering, Lean and Critical Thinking

Larry and I sometimes get asked about how lean thinking links to system engineering and the critical thinking necessary for any engineering discipline. A worthy task to condense into a few hundred words – one area where lean thinking helps. We’ll start with two analogies.

If systems engineering is a vehicle, think of lean as the engine that powers it. Lean thinking helps make things faster, better, cheaper – and safer. Without critical thinking you may have a great vehicle and a wonderful engine but headed in the wrong direction.

Another analogy is for a project of building a home or major addition. A lean practitioner is someone familiar with the tools and the thinking behind each tool, just like any good carpenter has a complete tool set and knowledge of how to use each tool. However, the old “measure twice and cut once” can be thought of as the critical thinking that eliminates waste. The overall plan for the home is akin to the overall system. You might have fantastic workmanship and come in under budget but if the design is flawed, the end product is flawed.

For our clients and our students, we take every lean tool back to the basics. Plan-Do-Check-Act takes on real meaning when people experience, first hand, how this simple but powerful model of continuous improvement can improve any system whether manufacturing, service industry or design. As the old guy (an ME with 43 years in GM and IE experience), Mike is the guy who handles the “tool” skill set. Larry, the EE with experience as a successful entrepreneur and business owner, uses lean and systems thinking to develop and drive business opportunity. Both use PDCA and critical thinking as the cornerstones of all activity.

In ISE 581, students will learn the foundations of the primary lean tools – and the thinking that enables continuous improvement. Respect for people, teamwork and a passion to make things run more efficiently are the bedrock of the learning – that and having fun along with real world experiences thrown in to make concepts come to life. The really great news is that “lean thinking,” properly applied, works in any kind of business or organization. Large, small, manufacturing, healthcare or service industry – it makes no difference.

Learn how lean thinking enables systems engineering. If you have any questions, feel free to contact either of our instructors.
Mike Taubitz 810-542-0885
Larry Osentoski 248-613-6738

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