3P (or Production, Preparation, Process)

Most LEAN methods are designed to improve previously established processes, with the end goal of producing more efficiently and eliminating waste. Lean 3P (or Production, Preparation, Process) does not improve existing processes but eliminates waste by-products and process design.

This is a powerful tool for manufacturing and should only be used by organizations that have had previous experience with LEAN manufacturing methods such as Kaizen or 5S. 3P’s concurrent development allows product design to have an impact on its manufacturing process. This in turn generates new insights that can be used to improve or streamline the product’s production. These insights are easier to implement in 3P because they come during the design phase rather than the production phase. Reworking a production process to make it more efficient can cost substantial amounts of money and may require the shutdown of production.

What is 3P?

3P can be described as an event-driven method for simultaneously developing new products, and the standards and workflows to support them. This is a way to elevate product design and production.

3P’s concurrent process for development allows product design to determine the production processes. This gives 3P the opportunity to gather insights that can be used to improve products and processes. These insights can be applied immediately, which allows organizations to reduce costs, save time and provide better solutions for consumers.


3P in LEAN occupies a unique role. 3P is not about improving existing processes. Instead, it eliminates waste by going back to the drawing board and starting again.

Although you might think 3P is a better alternative to LEAN best practices, it actually aligns with the core objectives of the methodology, which include:

  • Improve processes, products, and services
  • Big-picture goals brought to life
  • Evaluation of value streams to identify and eliminate waste centers
  • solutions that have a significant impact on an enterprise’s profitability or expenses can be solved.


Chihiro Nagao, founder and current of Shingijutsu Consulting, introduced the 3P model. Nakao called this lean manufacturing approach “…breakthrough, or transformational changes in the production process using unique problem-solving methods”.

Lean Six Sigma and DMAIC both rely on continuous improvement. Nakao’s 3P approach was to quickly make breakthrough changes through rapid prototyping of both products or processes.

3P Catchphrases

Nakao created 16 catchphrases that you can use to help you apply the 3P concept. These catchphrases are meant to capture the essence and spirit of the Toyota Production System.

These are the catchphrases:

  • Production preparation should be quick.
  • Layout and build equipment to ensure smooth material flow.
  • Use additive equipment.
  • Make equipment that is simple to set up.
  • Equipment should be easy to set up.
  • Use versatile equipment.
  • Reduce the number of operator workstations.
  • The layout and equipment should be easy to use.
  • Reduce wasted machine cycle time
  • Equipment to support small flow lines.
  • Utilize short vertical flow lines.
  • Equipment for one-piece pulling
  • You can make a quick changeover.
  • For smooth loading and unloading, link machines
  • Multiple lines can be used to rectify flows.
  • Continue spiraling upwards to Jidoka.

Advantages and Disadvantages

1. Rapid

You can quickly find improvements by using one of the 16 catchphrases from 3P. The first catchphrase, “Production preparation should go lightning fast”, refers to quick changeover and setup.

2. Cross-functional

Cross-functional teams are vital for capturing as many ideas as possible in Lean and Six Sigma improvement activities. This is also true for the 3P approach.

3. Integrated

You’ll notice that the 16 catchphrases include the use of many different Lean tools. These catchphrases hint at Lean concepts such as SMED Cell Flow Layout and Pull.

However, 3P has its downsides. It requires that you start from scratch which can lead to inefficiencies. Workers must be able to apply their Lean knowledge to new situations, which is not the case with other Lean processes. Teams may lose time in trial-and-error, without the guarantee that they will achieve their primary goal.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of 3P?
What are the advantages and disadvantages of 3P?

Launching a 3P Initiative

3P is one of the most powerful LEAN tools. It can unlock innovation, accelerate learning, and improve collaboration. Organizations that have used 5S or Kaizen methods will be more likely to succeed with 3P.

These are some things you should know before you launch a 3P Lean initiative.

  • Before you do anything, get to know your customer and what they want from you.
  • Describe the scope and objectives of your project. What are you hoping to achieve?
  • Don’t focus on the current processes. Instead, visualize your ideal state and decide if 3P is the best approach to achieving it. This practice is most useful in situations like changes in demand, the creation of a new space, or the development of a new product line.
  • 3P, like 5S and Kaizen events, works best when there is a deadline. Events typically last around a week. However, there is no time limit.

Steps in a LEAN 3P Event

Identify Product/Process Design Objectives/Needs

The team aims to identify the customer’s core needs. The project team will break down any product or prototype into its component parts and the raw materials to determine the role each has.


To show the flow of raw material to the finished product, a fishbone diagram is used or another type of illustration. The project team analyzes each diagram or illustration and brainstorms keywords (e.g. roll, rotate form bend) to describe any change (or “transformation”) that occurs at each branch.

Draw and evaluate the process

Each member of the sub-team is expected to create a unique way to complete the task. Each sketch is evaluated, and the top is selected (alongside any other good features) for a mockup.

Prototypes for Build, Present, and Select Process

The team designs and evaluates the process. They spend several days, if necessary, working with various mock-ups to make sure it meets the criteria.

Review of Design

After a selected concept is refined, it is presented for feedback to a wider group (including original product designers).

Create a Plan for Project Implementation

The team chooses the project leader to help determine the timeline, process, and allocation of responsibilities.

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