Guide: 3P Method

This comprehensive guide explores the 3P—Production Preparation Process—Lean methodology for designing efficient, waste-free manufacturing and service processes, offering a step-by-step framework to achieve operational excellence and continuous improvement.
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Author: Daniel Croft

Daniel Croft is an experienced continuous improvement manager with a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt and a Bachelor's degree in Business Management. With more than ten years of experience applying his skills across various industries, Daniel specializes in optimizing processes and improving efficiency. His approach combines practical experience with a deep understanding of business fundamentals to drive meaningful change.

Guide: 3P Method

Welcome to this in-depth guide on 3P—Production Preparation Process—a Lean methodology engineered to optimize every facet of your manufacturing and service processes. As someone invested in continuous improvement, you understand that traditional methods often focus on incrementally improving existing processes. But what if you could design processes that are inherently efficient, sustainable, and virtually waste-free from the ground up? That’s where 3P comes into play.

This guide aims to serve as your comprehensive roadmap to understanding and implementing the 3P methodology. From the foundational pillars of Production, Preparation, and Process to its practical applications, benefits, and challenges, we’ve got it all covered. Whether you’re new to the world of Lean Six Sigma or a seasoned practitioner, this guide offers valuable insights that can propel your organization toward operational excellence.

What is 3P?

3P, or Production Preparation Process, is a groundbreaking Lean methodology that revolutionizes the way organizations approach production systems. Unlike traditional improvement methods, which often involve “tweaking” existing processes to make them better, 3P aims to get things right from the very start. It seeks to design processes that are inherently efficient, scalable, and virtually devoid of waste. 

3P Method in Lean Six Sigma

Let’s break down its core principles and how it diverges from traditional approaches:

The Core Principle: Designing Over Improving

The central tenet of 3P is that it is far more effective to design a process correctly from the onset than to make incremental improvements later. Traditional Lean tools like Kaizen focus on continuous, incremental improvement to existing processes. While this is valuable, it often leads to “local optimization,” where one part of the process improves at the expense of the overall system.

In contrast, 3P takes a holistic approach, scrutinizing the entire production system from raw material to finished product. It encourages cross-functional teams to collaboratively design processes that are optimal across the entire value stream.

The Focus on Eliminating Waste

3P is relentless in its pursuit to eliminate waste—be it in terms of time, material, or human effort. The methodology employs a variety of Lean tools and techniques, such as Value Stream Mapping and 5S, to identify areas where waste occurs. Once identified, the goal is to design a process where such waste does not exist in the first place.

The Phases: Production, Preparation, and Process

  • Production: This phase focuses on the actual output—what is being produced, how it’s produced, and what can be done to produce it most efficiently.

  • Preparation: Preparation involves creating the ideal conditions for production to occur. This includes everything from the layout of the manufacturing floor to the type of machinery used.

  • Process: This phase scrutinizes each individual step in the production line to ensure that it is as efficient as possible. It’s about getting into the nitty-gritty details to identify and eliminate any form of inefficiency.

The Three Pillars of 3P

The 3P methodology is built on three fundamental pillars: Production, Preparation, and Process. Each of these pillars plays a crucial role in the overall effectiveness of the methodology. Let’s explore each pillar in detail to understand its significance and how it contributes to creating a lean, efficient, and waste-free operation.

1. Production

The Objective

The first “P” in 3P stands for Production, and it focuses squarely on the end product or service that the organization delivers. The objective here is to design a production line or service delivery system that is as efficient as possible.

Efficiency and Resource Optimization

Efficiency in this context means the ability to produce the desired output with the least amount of waste. This could be waste in terms of material, time, or labor. Resource optimization is about making the most of what you have—whether it’s machinery, manpower, or materials—to achieve maximum output with minimum input.

Workflow Design

The design of the workflow is critical. It needs to be straightforward, intuitive, and geared towards minimizing bottlenecks and delays. This often involves applying Lean principles like Just-In-Time (JIT) production and Kanban systems to ensure a smooth flow.

2. Preparation

Setting the Stage

Preparation is about setting the stage for success. This involves creating an environment—physically, operationally, and culturally—where lean production can thrive.

Equipment and Layout

Choosing the right equipment is crucial. But equally important is the layout of the production area. An optimized layout minimizes movement, reduces the chance of errors, and speeds up the production cycle. Tools like Spaghetti Diagrams can be used to visualize and improve the flow of materials and people.

Material Selection

Choosing the right materials is not just about quality; it’s also about availability, cost, and how easily the material can be handled in the production process. The aim is to identify materials that meet quality standards yet are cost-effective and readily available.

3. Process

Micro-Level Focus

While Production looks at the system as a whole, and Preparation sets the stage, Process delves into the nitty-gritty of the actual production steps. Each and every activity, from procurement to manufacturing to quality control, is scrutinized.

Step-by-Step Analysis

The focus here is to examine each step in isolation and in sequence to identify any waste or inefficiencies. Techniques like Gemba Walks, where managers physically go to the shop floor to observe processes, are often employed.

Continuous Improvement

Even after the initial design phase is over, the Process pillar encourages a culture of continuous improvement. Regular audits, employee feedback, and performance metrics are used to identify areas for ongoing improvement.

Advantages of 3P

  1. Proactive Approach: Instead of making incremental improvements to existing processes, 3P focuses on designing efficient processes from the outset. This proactive approach often leads to more substantial and long-lasting improvements.

  2. Holistic View: 3P encourages a comprehensive examination of production processes, taking into account every step from raw material sourcing to final product delivery. This holistic view ensures that improvements are harmonized across the entire value stream.

  3. Enhanced Innovation: The methodology fosters a culture of innovation. By brainstorming and prototyping new ideas, organizations can discover groundbreaking solutions to longstanding challenges.

  4. Cost Savings: By designing out waste from the start, organizations can achieve significant cost savings in both the short and long term.

  5. Scalability: 3P designs processes with growth in mind, ensuring that as the organization scales, the processes can adapt and remain efficient.

Disadvantages of 3P

  1. Initial Resistance: Introducing a new methodology can face resistance from employees, especially if they are accustomed to existing processes. This resistance can slow down the implementation phase.

  2. Resource Intensive: The initial stages of 3P, especially the prototyping and testing phases, can be resource-intensive, requiring time, effort, and sometimes capital.

  3. Complexity: Given its holistic approach, 3P projects can be complex, requiring careful management and coordination across different departments and teams.

  4. Requires Expertise: Successfully implementing 3P requires a certain level of expertise in Lean methodologies. Organizations without this expertise might face challenges in effective implementation.

  5. Potential Overemphasis on Design: There’s a risk that organizations might spend too much time in the design phase, delaying actual implementation and benefits realization.

Implementing 3P: A Step-by-Step Guide

Successfully implementing the 3P methodology in your organization requires a structured approach. Below, we break down each step in detail, explaining the importance of each and offering tips on how to execute them effectively.

Step 1. Identify Objectives


Setting clear objectives serves as the roadmap for your 3P project. Without well-defined goals, the project can drift, losing focus and effectiveness.

How to Execute

  • Develop SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound) for what you hope to achieve with the 3P methodology.
  • Align these objectives with broader organizational goals to ensure strategic coherence.

An image of SMART targets

Step 2. Assemble Team


The complexity of production processes usually requires insights from different departments. A cross-functional team brings a diverse perspective that is crucial for the project’s success.

How to Execute

  • Include members from various departments like production, engineering, quality control, and even finance.
  • Train the team in the basics of 3P to ensure everyone is on the same page.

Team - Learnleansigma

Step 3. Analyze Current State


Understanding where you currently stand helps to identify the gaps and areas where improvement is needed. This serves as the baseline against which future improvements are measured.

How to Execute

  • Utilize tools like Value Stream Mapping or Process Flow Charts to visualize the existing processes.
  • Collect data on key performance indicators to establish the current state benchmarks.

Step three - SIC Data Analysis - Learn Lean Sigma

Step 4. Brainstorm


The brainstorming phase is where you unleash creativity to find innovative solutions for identified problems. The more ideas you have, the better your chances of finding truly effective solutions.

How to Execute

  • Use techniques like mind mapping or Six Thinking Hats to facilitate creative thinking.
  • Encourage open discussion and ensure every team member’s voice is heard.


Step 5. Prototype


Creating prototypes or mock-ups is essential for visualizing the proposed changes and how they fit into the existing setup. It helps in identifying potential pitfalls before full-scale implementation.

How to Execute

  • Develop low-cost, simplified versions of the proposed changes.
  • Use tools like 3D modeling or even cardboard cutouts for physical processes.

3d modeling

Step 6. Test


Testing validates the effectiveness of the new design. This is where you find out if the theoretical improvements hold up under real-world conditions.

How to Execute

  • Run simulations using software tools to test virtual processes.
  • Conduct pilot tests on a smaller scale before full implementation.


Step 7. Implement


Once validated, the new process design is rolled out. This is where the organization starts to realize the benefits of the 3P project.

How to Execute

  • Develop an implementation plan that includes timelines, responsibilities, and required resources.
  • Communicate the changes to all stakeholders and provide necessary training.


Step 8. Review and Improve


Continuous improvement is at the heart of Lean methodologies. Regularly reviewing the performance ensures that the process stays efficient and adapts to new challenges.

How to Execute

  • Use performance metrics to continuously monitor the new process.
  • Conduct regular audits and adapt the process based on feedback and performance data.


Implementing the 3P methodology is a transformative journey towards operational excellence, but it’s not without its challenges. Whether you’re launching a new product, scaling operations, or aiming to revamp existing processes, 3P offers a comprehensive framework to design systems that are efficient, scalable, and sustainable. It’s crucial to recognize that 3P is not just a one-off project but a continuous endeavor, deeply integrated into the fabric of your organization.

Addressing common challenges like resistance to change, complexity, and resource constraints with proactive planning and stakeholder involvement can significantly improve the success rate of your 3P project. As we’ve seen through case studies across different industries, the benefits are tangible and substantial, ranging from reduced lead times to improved patient care. In summary, 3P stands as a testament to the power of Lean thinking, offering a holistic approach to process improvement that can yield remarkable, lasting results.


A: 3P stands out because it emphasizes designing processes right from the beginning rather than just improving existing ones. While most Lean tools focus on incremental improvements, 3P aims to create processes that are inherently efficient, scalable, and virtually waste-free from the get-go.

A: 3P encourages early involvement of all stakeholders, transparent communication, and ample training. By ensuring everyone understands the benefits and feels a sense of ownership, 3P helps mitigate resistance and fosters a collaborative approach to change.

A: No, while 3P originated in manufacturing, its principles are universally applicable. Industries like healthcare, finance, and IT, among others, have successfully adopted 3P to design efficient and waste-free processes tailored to their unique environments.

A: The initial stages of 3P, especially prototyping and testing, can be resource-intensive. However, the investment is often justified by the long-term benefits of having a process that is efficient and reduces waste, leading to cost savings in the long run.

A: Absolutely! 3P can be effectively combined with other Lean and Six Sigma tools. In fact, organizations often find that integrating 3P with methodologies like Kaizen or DMAIC leads to more comprehensive and sustainable improvements.


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Daniel Croft

Daniel Croft is a seasoned continuous improvement manager with a Black Belt in Lean Six Sigma. With over 10 years of real-world application experience across diverse sectors, Daniel has a passion for optimizing processes and fostering a culture of efficiency. He's not just a practitioner but also an avid learner, constantly seeking to expand his knowledge. Outside of his professional life, Daniel has a keen Investing, statistics and knowledge-sharing, which led him to create the website, a platform dedicated to Lean Six Sigma and process improvement insights.

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