A growing number of companies is adopting Agile into their hardware shops and in their cross functional Teams developing End-to-End products. New machines, tools and production technologies are allowing them to ship a new prototype, a new product version or a new organization of the manufacturing line every sprint. Manufacturing companies are often far ahead applying lean processes but struggle with flexibility, modularity, interface design, and refactoring. According to Steve Denning, „the winners in the rapidly changing world of manufacturing will be those firms that have mastered the agility needed to generate rapid and continuous customer-based innovation.“ (Forbes 2012)
The most important reasons for applying Scrum in hardware are, first, to shorten product cycle time and second, to reduce the cost of change means reacting quickly to customer expectations. Implementing Scrum in hardware today struggles due to the same challenges as the software industry did for the last 20 years: We know today which are the best practices and patterns to implement a continuous delivery pipeline, how to design the right product architecture or how to choose our tools and infrastructure to build them. But what about best practices in hardware? Therefore I participated in the first „train-the-trainer“ class for Scrum in hardware with Joe Justice (ScrumInc.) and other agile coaches and Scrum trainers in Seattle.
You probably heard about Joe and his Company (he calls it „a hobby“!) Wikispeed. Joe wanted to produce an ultra efficient car and he also wanted to do it in an agile way. He started alone in his garage but rapidly shared ideas and results with other experts in the world. Under the term eXtreme Manufacturing (XM) the Team WIKISPEED describes how it manufactures cars combining the Scrum framework (e.g. cross functional teams, sprints and common backlog), object-oriented architecture (e.g. modularity, contract first design) and eXtreme Programming practices (e.g. test driven development). Blending these three practices, WIKISPEED demonstrated a new art of manufacturing that allows several teams spread over the world to deliver upgrades of each module, shorten time-to-market of the whole car, reduce costs and support quick changes and innovation. With all the course participants we experienced the Wikispeed philosophy and participated in a „Wikispeed Build Party“.
For sure the story of Wikispeed is a real inspiration regarding the transfer of Scrum practices into hardware development (for more inspiration have a look on Joe’s Ted Talk). There are even other cases known of projects in the aeronautic industry, automotive industry or in medical technology companies using agile approaches.
In addition to the course we spent one day visiting the Boeing 777 & 747 assembly line and coached the 777 Flight Test Team on how to improve its process and delivery time using Scrum. You can get a glimpse of the atmosphere by looking at this timelapse. Together, we developed some ideas on how to implement agile principles in their daily work, visualise the workloads and improve the collaboration between the different departments involved.
Nevertheless there is no standardized body of knowledge for implementing Scrum in hardware development yet. So one of the goals of the training I attended is in fact to create this body of knowledge. It was a great opportunity to share experiences and try to define best practices with other coaches and consultants on implementing Scrum in manufacturing and product development teams for hardware products. Here are some issues we discussed during the training:
- Support and organize the work in cross functional hardware teams
- Product design definition and patterns (object-oriented-architecture)
- Test driven development applied in hardware
- XP Patterns applied in hardware
- Beyond lean production: Scrum in Hardware shops
- Technologies and tools to support prototyping and continuous delivery
- Practical games to experience Scrum in hardware through dedicated Scrum trainings
So it’s a wide field of research that I will try to address deeper in further blogs. If you want to share your thoughts, experiences and challenges implementing Scrum in hardware and manufacturing environments, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment or contact me!