3P Production Preparation Process

While many Lean methodologies focus on incremental improvements that can be sustained through regular practice, 3P (Production, Preparation and Process) tackles workplace waste, quality issues, and production processes from a different, more forceful angle.

In this post, we’ll explain what 3P is, how it works, and when it makes sense to use within your business.

What Is 3P?

3P is defined as an event-driven process for simultaneously developing new products and the standards and workflows that support them in an effort to take product design and production to the next level.

3P’s concurrent development process allows the product design to dictate the processes that will be used to produce it, which provides an opportunity to start gathering insights for improving products/processes from the get-go. Those insights can be implemented as they emerge, allowing organizations to cut costs, save time, and deliver better solutions to consumers.

3P Meaning

3P in Lean occupies a unique role. Instead of working toward improving existing processes, 3P essentially eliminates waste by heading back to the drawing board and starting from scratch.

While you may assume 3P bumps up against Lean best practices, it actually fits right in with the methodology’s core objectives, including:

  • Improving processes, products, and services
  • Bringing big-picture goals to life
  • Evaluating value streams to identify and eliminate waste centers
  • Solving problems with a significant impact on the enterprise, like cutting expenses or increasing profitability

Free 3P Overview Video

Get an overview of the 3P process in this free, 12 minute introduction video
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Advantages and Disadvantages of the 3P Production Preparation Process

3P serves as a catalyst of sorts for driving dramatic, high-impact transformations. Done right, 3P events allow teams to apply Lean principles to the specific areas where they'll provide the most impact, whether that means streamlined manufacturing processes or more relevant customer experiences.

Workers no longer waste time looking for workarounds to deal with existing problems.

Instead, teams work together, applying lessons learned from their daily Lean practice toward making drastic changes to the system.

On the flip side, 3P isn’t without its “cons.” It requires you to start from scratch, which presents the risk of creating new inefficiencies. And unlike most Lean processes that aim to improve existing processes, workers must apply their knowledge to new, untested situations with the understanding that things might not go as planned. As a result, teams may end up losing time to trial-and-error processes without any guarantee they’ll achieve their primary objective.

How to Practice the 3P Production Preparation Process

3P is one of the most powerful Lean tools available, with the potential to unlock innovation, rapid learning, and improved collaboration. Because 3P is also one of the more “advanced” continuous improvement practices, organizations that have experience using methods like 5S and Kaizen will have a better shot at success.

With that in mind, here are a few things to know before launching a 3P Lean initiative:

  • Before you do anything else, make sure you have a deep understanding of who your customer is and what they expect from a solution.
  • Define the objective and scope for your project. What do you hope to accomplish?
  • Avoid focusing on existing processes. Instead, think about your ideal state and consider whether 3P is the best way to reach that goal. The practice is best suited for situations such as changes in demand, building a new space, or developing a new product line.
  • Like Kaizen and 5S events, 3P works best when there’s a deadline attached. As a point of reference, events typically last about a week, though there's no official time frame.

For a complete breakdown of 3P steps, best practices, and use cases, check out Gemba Academy’s 3P Online training course. Filmed in front of a live audience, this course first explains the concept of 3P, then digs deeper, using the example of designing a new healthcare facility to put the methodology in context.

If you’re not a current subscriber, you can watch the first installment for free to get a feel for our approach to Lean learning.


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