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eXtreme Manufacturing


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The term eXtreme Manufacturing (XM) was coined by Team WIKISPEED, a non-profit car manufacturer, to describe how it manufactures automobiles combining elements from the Scrum development process, eXtreme Programing and Object-Oriented architecture. Blending these three philosophies, WIKISPEED invented a new manufacturing process that can shorten time-to-market, reduce labor costs and spur innovation.

The Elements

The slide on your right shows the elements XM combines to generate the process efficiencies it achieves.


XM borrows the basic Agile principals from Scrum. First and foremost, it leverages small, cross-functional teams, which have a Product Owner and Scrum Master. XM is structured around Sprints to help develop functionality in vertical slices that build overtime. Like Scrum, XM makes development transparent through tools like a Scrum Board and a Product Backlog. It also borrows the concept of tracking process improvements by using Velocity. And, most importantly, it relies on the Lean concept of continuous improvement by employing Sprint Retrospectives and Scrumming the Scrum. Scrum provides the basic structure for XM.

eXtreme Programing

Scrum has adopted many best practices from eXtreme Programming and so does XM. Writing Product Backlog Items in User Story form helps develop products from an end-user perspective. This is particularly useful because XM designs and builds product on a per/contract basis. This helps create more customer-centric products so building a product based on the perspective of the person who will be using the product increases value.

XM also borrows Pairing from eXtreme Programing: two people work together on every job. This allows a small team to swarm on a particular task, while cross-training employees and building quality control into the manufacturing process. Pairing also reduces dependency on different skill sets.

XM uses Test Driven Development, or TDD, to dramatically speed up time-to-market and lower development costs. Team WIKISPEED for example used real-time crash test data to build a computer program that simulates an actual crash test. They were able to save millions of dollars in crash tests by simulating them each Sprint. After a number of Sprints accumulating data, WIKISPEED pays for another physical test. The new information is then used to up-date the computer simulation. This lowers material costs since WIKISPEED doesn’t have to destroy a car each time they want to test it and it reduces production costs because crash tests are expensive.

Object Oriented Architecture

Modularity allows for innovative design while building on iterative development. For example, Team WIKISPEED uses modularity for all its components. That allows the team to re-design the suspension system, speedometer or car body at any point and not have to tweak the chassis or dashboard to make the improved components fit. Modularity prevents engineering challenges from rippling through the entire design process. It also allows the team to swarm on the most important improvement without affecting the rest of the car.

Contract Design: As manufacturing matures, more and more customers are insisting on custom designs. XM embraces customization before the manufacturing process even starts. For example, WIKISPEED takes only custom orders of its commuter cars and is able to easily meet each customer’s need because of the car’s modularity.

XM leverages Design Patterns in two ways: 1) by re-using mature designs with a proven track record and 2) by reducing complexity. Basically, XM doesn’t try to reinvent the wheel. The idea is to take advantage of established technology and techniques to reduce costs of designing specialty parts.

WIKISPEED has incorporated design patterns in a number of ways but there are two clear examples: modularity and inheritance. Modularity we mentioned above. By keeping the same interfaces between all the modules, the team can increase or reduce complexity in any given module without affecting another.

Inheritance is the idea of benefiting from established techniques and technology. WIKISPEED, in its quest to achieve 100mpg didn’t invent a new highbred engine; they used a very established, efficient engine (40mpg) and then reduced weight and aerodynamic drag to cut fuel consumption in half (80mpg.) Just by using less weight, a sleeker design and piggybacking on an established engine they achieved 80% of their goal. To get the remaining 20% they re-tooled some of the engine’s software to get the car to pulse-and-glide. Pulse-and-glide is a hyper-efficient driving technique that increases fuel efficiency. WIKISPEED just automated what is essentially a manual process. No fancy new engine, just good old fashion engineering.

What XM Means to Strategy

These manufacturing tools help create more custom-centric products, produce cost savings and lower the threshold for bringing innovation to the marketplace. Companies like Boeing and John Deere are moving in an XM direction already with many competitors likely follow.

Watch the webinar on eXtreme Manufacturing: