Lean in Orbit

development Aug 06, 2021

As we know Lean methodology increasingly predominates among the most successful enterprises and organisations on earth, but now Lean is on its way to launching up into the cosmos, yes, Lean is going galactic.

So, what do I mean by this, well, you will have heard about the new ‘space race’ between private space companies owned by billionaires; most prominently Elon Musk’s SpaceX, Jeff Bezos’ Blue Horizon and Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic. SpaceX launched the first person into space commercially in May 2020, and Virgin Galactic launched the first billionaire into space, to name just two achievements, but what does any of this have to do with Lean, I hear you ponder and muse.

Well, it has everything to do with Lean. We know Elon Musk has explicitly deployed Lean in his Tesla operations, but he has also arguably talked the language of Lean in his discussions of rockets:

‘So, the critical breakthrough that’s needed for us to become a space faring civilisation is to make space travel like air travel. With air travel, you fly in the plane many times … it’s reusable, you use that motor transport many times. If you had get a new plane every time you had to fly somewhere, very few people could fly. The holy grail of space is a rapidly reusable orbital rocket.’

And of course, this is what Musk achieved in part in December 2015 with the first successful landing of Falcon’s 9’s first stage for recovery and reuse and landing an entire spaceship back down on Earth is what Musk is increasingly creeping towards achieving with his Starship Programme, which after five attempts, managed to conduct a successful high-altitude test and landing of SN15.

Lean is at its heart about the reduction of Waste, and here nearly all the wastes are relevant, from overproduction of parts, waiting for refurbishment, manual transportation of stages, motion, and processing. Space exploration had only ever known these wastes with the need to jettison ascent stages usually straight into the sea for disposal and costly renewal, and what is going on here is the same sort of thing we achieve for our clients, the reallocation of that energy towards doing what really matters, in this case, depending on your view, space exploration. The fact that SpaceX has been able to achieve this by landing on a platform floating on the same sea straight into which NASA had been jettisoning stages just a few years earlier, attests to the progress and huge change underway here.

So, if you are a billionaire with space ambitions reading this blog article, get in touch to see if we could help. We would equally welcome enquiries from those who are not billionaires and just want to improve their processes.

As ever, get in touch at [email protected]