Value Stream Management: Bringing Lean Manufacturing Techniques To IBM i Development
September 20, 2021 Andrew Ireland
When resources are tight, it is important to optimize their usage and maximize the business value they deliver. This is the very foundation of what is called lean manufacturing or just-in-time manufacturing, which more than a few IBM i shops know a thing or two about because this platform has been used for decades by process and discrete manufacturers to automate their businesses.
The move toward DevOps has allowed software engineers to adopt many of the best practices developed by manufacturing over the last 100 years. These include automating the flow of code, a repository of standard components and a common methodology for controlling the build process across all of a company’s platforms. With this evolution of DevOps it is only natural that an important aspect of lean manufacturing, called value stream management (VSM), is being brought to bear in software development in general and now, starting with some new features being added to ARCAD V13.2, for IBM i shops in particular.
A little history is in order for context. Henry Ford, the legendary car maker, was instrumental in creating the assembly line, which was founded on the idea of the standardization of parts, a flow through workers to assemble them, and high pay for workers – enough to buy a car was the goal, by the way, because who better to do word of mouth marketing than Ford Motor Company workers? Frederick Winslow Taylor, a mechanical engineer who wrote The Principles of Scientific Management in 1911, which has been called the most influential management tome of the 20th century, pioneered the concept of industrial engineering. In the 1950s at Toyota, industrial engineers Shigeo Shingo and Taiichi Ohno modified what Ford, Taylor, and others had done to create the Toyota Production System, which later became the foundations of lean and just-in-time manufacturing.
These lean manufacturing methods were adopted in Europe and the United States after Japan schooled the world on how powerful this approach can be, and after these continents had spent a fortune on manufacturing resource planning (MRP) methods and software that encapsulated it. People have a general concept of what lean manufacturing is, but unless they are industrial engineers or are developing applications at a discrete or process manufacturer, they very likely do not know what value stream mapping is.
One of the key concepts of modern management is that you cannot manage what you do not measure, so there is a lot of measuring of things in just-in-time manufacturing. Value mapping is also known as material and information flow mapping, and the idea is to create a giant flow chart that maps out each and every step from the moment an order for a product or service is received to when that product or service is delivered successfully to the customer. It shows the flow of materials and information, as the alternate name suggests, and the idea is to measure how long each step in the flow takes and look for the bottlenecks and work them out to improve the flow. Value stream mapping has been adapted from the Toyota Way to be used outside of manufacturing in logistics, supply chain management, healthcare deliver, and various kinds of back office and front office management.
Over the last 30 years we have seen an evolution in development from a ‘hand crafted’ process by individuals within an organization toward a ‘manufacturing of code’ that emphasizes reuse of common components & methods to deliver complex software solutions across organizations more efficiently. This started with the adoption of Object Orientated development (OO) during the 90’s. This helped to kick off the evolution of Agile (for both OO and non OO development) which later drove the need for DevOps process automation. As DevOps matured there was the realization that continual optimization of the end-to-end process is critical to being successful in any DevOps initiative. To achieve this, over the last 3 or 4 years we have seen the adoption of Value Stream Mapping & Value Stream Management to enable organizations to measure and optimize the entire DevOps process through continual feedback. With VSM, IT management can instantly understand where best to deploy resources and resolve bottlenecks across the organization.
Value stream management tools are made for this purpose to be used by all areas of the business and not just programmers. So ARCAD V13.2 has VSM dashboards that can help managers gather all kinds of information to see the DevOps flow and then allow them to make changes as necessary. So, for instance, ARCAD integrates
with tools like Jira for ticketing to give you complete end to end visibility of your IBM i development processes. This analysis may reveal that you have a bottleneck in testing, which can then be addressed by hiring of one or two new testers or adopting automated testing tools to speed up the work done by existing testing staff.
The point is, when it comes to developing software for specific businesses, every situation is unique by definition on a lot of vectors – no two businesses are the same because they have different histories, different employees, different products, different customers, and different resources to bring to bear – but everyone needs to keep track of their DevOps process and refine and tune it to bring more value faster to the company and therefore its customers.
Ultimately, Value Stream Management is about eliminating waste in its many forms, and implementing it will require CIOs, IT managers, and development managers to wrap their brains around some new ideas, such as flow velocity (how quickly you can deliver a product – in this case, code – in a week, month, or longer period of time) flow distribution (how much effort is allocated in what flows), flow time (an overall time-to-value metric, from when a piece of code is requested to when it is delivered), and flow load (a kind of measure of total work in progress over time).
VSM is something that is best seen, and that is why ARCAD is hosting a webinar to talk about the new value stream management features, and the dashboards that visualize the value stream, that are included in ARCAD V13.2. The webinar, entitled Understanding Value Stream Management (VSM) in an IBM i World, will happen at 12 noon EDT (5 PM BST or 6 PM CET for those of you in Europe) on Thursday, September 23. These VSM features, along with Application Intelligence dashboards for monitoring application health, are being added for free to the ARCAD stack, so check them out.
This content is sponsored by ARCAD Software.
Andrew Ireland is Global Alliances Manager and DevSecOps Business Manager at ARCAD Software.