This study presents a systematic approach of streamlining an upholstery furniture engineering process based on a case study in one of the largest export-oriented furniture manufacturers in China. The approach encompasses an analysis of the current state of the engineering process and the proposal of a lean future state value stream map (VSM). The current state analysis includes the definition of the product family, analysis of current customer demands, and the definition of the process metrics of the engineering process. Data were collected during a half-month visit to the furniture plant in China. Results from the current state VSM show that the value-added ratio of the current engineering process is 26.0 percent. Many engineering steps present deficiencies, such as the processes of creating drawings, compiling mass production documents, checking and signing off on engineering documents, creating CNC programs, and generating packaging files. After the current state VSM, it is found that unpredictable process cycle time and expediting engineering change orders are two major problems in the current engineering process. Based on current state VSM, the research focuses on countermeasures to solve the root causes of the major problems and proposes the best practices for the future VSM.

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Author notes

The authors are, respectively, Graduate Research Assistant, Assistant Professor, Professor, and Associate Professor, Dept. of Wood Sci. and Forest Products, Virginia Polytechnic Inst. and State Univ., Blacksburg (wangchao@vt.edu [corresponding author], quesada@vt.edu, kline@vt.edu, buehlmann@gmail.com). This paper was received for publication in May 2011. Article no. 11-00065.