medtech and lean - a contradiction?

presentation given in 2017 at the TECHNOLOGIE ZENTRUM WESTBAYERN in Nördlingen (Germany)

MedTech and Lean - a Contradiction?
MedTech_u_Lean_MSc_January_17 (2).pdf
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The application of the “lean innovation” approach helps to facilitate a faster and more cost-efficient development of products and services that satisfy the customer’s needs. Key characteristics of “lean innovation” are its cultural-driven, cross-functional nature and strict adherence to a few well-proven basic principles.


The methods may be implemented bottom-up in small batches with lower risks, less costs and earlier results. Moreover, they accelerate learning and retain improvements. However, lean innovation is a continuous strategy and not just a quick-fix solution!





Innovation is defined as a process that turns ideas into value (and profits). It is the lifeblood of most organizations today. However, innovation by definition requires change and change requires moving away from the comfort of status quo. In today’s medtech business environment, companies must respond to change and emerging opportunities with a mindset to master the process of changing the routine economically. Organizations need to intentionally and deliberately foster innovation through instituting appropriate processes, methodologies and supporting technologies.


To increase effectiveness (develop the right things) and improve efficiency (reduce costs / reduce time-to-market) while embracing creativity in innovation management, companies could emphasize on a few basic principles and tools bearing many similarities to the methods of lean manufacturing, this concept may therefore be labeled “lean Innovation”.




Essentially, ”lean” is centered on preserving value with less work. Lean manufacturing is a management concept derived mostly from the Toyota Production System (TPS) and identified as "lean" since the 1990s. TPS is renowned for its focus on the reduction of waste to improve overall customer value. However, manufacturing has rather different characteristics than innovation. For example, manufacturing deals with predictable and repetitive tasks, homogeneous delay costs, and homogeneous task durations. Innovation on the other hand deals with high variability and non-repetitive, non-homogeneous flow. Different innovation projects always have different delay costs, and they present variable loads on company resources. Moreover, innovation is interdisciplinary making communications, consensus and coordination rather complex and demanding




The good news is that, although innovating is truly different from manufacturing, much of the knowledge and many of the tools of lean manufacturing can also be applied to this critical upstream process – with some crucial modifications however. What it takes is some independent thinking and problem-solving ability adapting the lean toolbox to a company’s specific needs. Based on over two decades of cross-industry project experiences, a deep understanding of R&D culture and comprehensive innovation management, marcs group has adapted the concept of well-proven lean principles. This with the goal to increase innovation effectiveness (develop the right things) and efficiency (reduce costs / time-to-market) while embracing creativity. Since each organization faces a different situation, marcs group thoroughly assesses the current status, coaches the people involved early in the process and subsequently co-develops solutions applying a client-tailored set of tools.


Ohno T (1988);
The Toyota Production System: Beyond Large-Scale Production. Productivity Press (Cambridge, MA)

Womack J P, Jones D T, Roos D (1990);
The Machine That Changed the World. HarperCollins (New York)

Holweg M (2007);
The Genealogy of Lean Production. Journal of Operations Management (2): 420–424

Mascitelli R (2007);
The Lean Product Development Guidebook. TechPerspectives (Northridge, CA)

Reinertsen D G (2009);
The Principles of Product Development Flow. Celeritas Publishing (Redondo Beach, CA)



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