Value chain management: bringing lean production techniques to IBM i development

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September 20, 2021

Andrew Ireland

When resources are limited, it is important not to waste anything. It’s the very foundation of what’s known as lean manufacturing or just-in-time manufacturing, which more than a few IBM i stores know a thing or two about, as this platform has been used by manufacturers for decades. process and discrete to automate their activities. .

And now that DevOps has created a code-making flow, a repository for keeping the pieces of code standardized, and a methodology for controlling the build process and changes to the entire flow to encourage improvement, it’s natural. that an important aspect of lean manufacturing, called Value Stream Mapping, is being brought to bear in software development in general and now, starting with new VSM dashboard features added in ARCAD V13.2, for IBM i stores in particular.

A little history is in order for the context. Henry Ford, the legendary automaker, was instrumental in creating the assembly line, which was founded on the idea of ​​standardization of parts, a flow of workers to assemble them, and a high wage for workers – enough to buying a car was the goal, by the way, because who better to do word of mouth marketing than the employees of Ford Motor Company? Frederick Winslow Taylor, a mechanical engineer who wrote The principles of scientific management in 1911, which was called the 20e century, pioneer of the concept of industrial engineering. But the United States and Europe were relatively wealthy countries, with access to a lot of raw materials and capital to build factories. Japan was a much less wealthy country back then, but had its own aspirations, and in the 1930s, when Toyota shifted from making textiles to making cars, industrial engineers Shigeo Shingo and Taiichi Ohno changed what Ford, Taylor, and others had done to create smaller factories that had very little inventory and took up smaller amounts of capital.

These lean manufacturing methods were adopted in Europe and the United States after Japan taught the world how powerful this approach can be, and after those continents spent a fortune on planning methods and software. manufacturing resources (MRP) that encapsulated it.

(And, frankly, the interconnected network of lean manufacturers is one of the reasons the world’s supply chains are so screwed up now that we’ve been battling the coronavirus pandemic for a year and a half now. lean manufacturing assumes that highly optimized flows can just keep running. And they do, until the moment they don’t, and then there is no stock of parts and finished products to act like a buffer against chaos.)

People have a general idea of ​​what lean manufacturing is, but unless they’re industrial engineers or developing applications at a quiet or process manufacturer, they most likely don’t know what. that is the mapping of the value chain.

One of the key concepts in modern management is that you can’t manage what you don’t measure, so there is a lot of measurement in just-in-time manufacturing. Value mapping is also known as material and information flow mapping, and the idea is to create a giant flowchart that plots every step from when an order for a product or service is received. until such time as that product or service is successfully delivered. to the client. It shows the flow of materials and information, as the alternate name suggests, and the idea is to measure the duration of each stage of the flow, find bottlenecks and resolve them to improve the flow. Value Chain Mapping has been adapted from the Toyota Way for use outside of manufacturing in logistics, supply chain management, healthcare delivery, and various types of back-office management and front office.

Significantly, three or four years ago value stream mapping techniques were added to DevOps tools, which makes sense given that with DevOps software is developed and deployed in the same organized and structured than any other product is manufactured. With Value Stream Mapping, you can find out what’s going on in the development and operations processes and find the bottlenecks, and this is a natural evolution of Object Oriented Programming (OOP) and the componentization of the code, which helped drive the whole agility movement, and you need the fusion of development and operations to make that agility sustainable. Value Stream Management, or VSM, is the next step in the evolutionary path of application development. Now you can monitor and measure the entire DevOps process and see how long each step of the flow takes (development, testing, quality control, etc.). To optimize this process, CIOs, IT managers and development managers need the right kind of tools to see the whole flow and visualize how well or how bad the whole process is.

VSM tools are designed for this purpose and for use by these managers – not programmers. Thus, 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 the necessary changes. So, for example, ARCAD integrates with Jira for trouble tickets, and it may turn out that there is a bottleneck in testing, which may mean hiring a new one or two. people to perform the tests or acquire automated test tools to speed up the work done by today’s testers.

Example: Modify the deadline by version (extract from ARCAD VSM dashboards)

The point is, when it comes to developing software for specific companies, every situation is unique by definition across many vectors – no company is the same because they have different histories, different employees, different products. , different clients and different resources. to implement, but everyone needs to keep track of their DevOps process, refine and adjust it to deliver more value faster to the business and therefore to its customers.

Ultimately, value chain management is all about eliminating waste in its many forms, and its implementation will require CIOs, IT managers, and development managers to focus on new ideas, such as flow speed (how fast you can deliver a product – in this case the code – in a week, month, or longer period) flow distribution (how much effort is allocated in which flows), flow (an aggregate time-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 viewed, and that is why ARCAD is hosting a webinar to talk about new value chain management features and dashboards that visualize the value chain, which are included in ARCAD V13.2 . The webinar, titled Understanding Value Chain Management (VSM) in an IBM i World, will take place at 12:00 p.m. EDT (5:00 p.m. BST or 6:00 p.m. CET for those of you in Europe) on Thursday, September 23. These VSM features, along with Application Intelligence dashboards to monitor application health, are added to the ARCAD stack for free, so check them out.

[Webinar] Understanding Value Chain Management (VSM) in an IBM i World

This content is sponsored by ARCAD Software.

Andrew Ireland is Global Alliances Manager and DevSecOps Business Manager at ARCAD software.

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