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The Toyota Way is more than Tools and Techniques

06 Jun

So you set up your kanban system (Kanban is the Japanese word for “card”, “ticket”, or “sign” and is a tool for managing the flow and production of materials in a Toyota-style “pull” production system.) You put in the andon, which is a visual control device in a production area that alerts workers to defects, equipment abnormalities, or other problems using signals such as lights, audible alarms, etc. Finally with these devices your workplace looks like a Toyota plant. Yet, over time your workspace reverts to operating like it did before. You call in a Toyota Production System (TPS) expert who shakes her head disapprovingly. What is wrong

The real work of implementing Lean has just begun. Your workers do not understand the culture behind TPS. They are not contributing to the continuous improvement of the system or improving themselves. In the Toyota Way, it is the people who bring the system to life: working, communicating, resolving issues and growing together. From the first look at excellent companies in Japan practicing lean manufacturing, it was clear that the workers were active in making improvement suggestions. But the Toyota Way goes well beyond this; it encourages, supports and in fact demands employee involvement

The more I have studied TPS and the Toyota Way, the more I understand that it is a system designed to provide the tools for people, not less. It is a culture, even more than a set of efficiency and improvement techniques. You depend upon the workers to reduce inventory, identify hidden problems, and fix them. The workers have a sense of urgency, purpose and teamwork because if they don’t fix it there will be an inventory outage. On a daily basis, engineers, skilled workers, quality specialists, vendors, team leaders, and -most importantly- operators are involved in continuous problem solving and improvement, which over time trains everyone to become better problem solvers

One lean tool that facilitates this teamwork is called 5S (sort, stabilize, shine, standardize and sustain), which is a series of activities for eliminating wastes that contribute to errors, defects and injuries. In this improvement method, the fifth S, sustain, is arguably the hardest. It’s the one that keeps the first for S’s going by emphasizing the necessary education, training, and continuously improve operating procedures and the workplace environment. This effort requires a combination of committed management, proper training, and a culture that makes sustaining improvement a habitual behavior for the shop floor to management.

This chapter provides a synopsis of the 14 principles that constitute the Toyota Way. The principles are organized in four broad categories: 1) Long-Term Philosophy. 2) The Right Process Will Produce the Right Results. 3) Add Value to the Organization by Developing Your People, and 4) Continuously Solving Root Problems Drives Organizational Learning.

Summary of the 14 Toyota Way Principles

  1. Section I: Long-Term Philosophy.

    1. Principle 1: Base your management decisions on a long-term philosophy, even at the expense of short-term financial goals.
  2. Section II: The Right Process Will Produce the Right Results.
    1. Principle 2: Create continuous process flow to bring problems to the surface.
    2. Principle 3: Use “pull” systems to avoid overproduction.
    3. Principle 4: Level out the workload (heijunka). (Work like the tortoise, not the hare).
    4. Principle 5: Build a culture of stopping to fix problems, to get quality right the first time.
    5. Principle 6: Standardized tasks are the foundation for continuous improvement and employee empowerment.
    6. Principle 7:Use visual control so no problems are hidden.
    7. Principle 8: Use only reliable, throughly tested technology that serves your people and processes.
  3. Section III: Add value to the Organization by Developing Your People and Partners
    1. Principle 9: Grow leaders who throughly understand the work, live the philosophy, and teach it to others.
    2. Principle 10: Develop exceptional people and teams who follow your company’s philosophy.
    3. Principle 11: Respect your extend network of partners and suppliers by challenging them and helping them improve.
  4. Section IV: Continuously Solving Root Problems Drives Organizational Learning
    1. Principle 12: Go and see for yourself to throughly understand the situation (genchi genbutsu).
    2. Principle 13: Make decisions slowly by consensus, thoroughly considering all options implement decisions rapidly.
    3. Principle 14: Become a learning organization thorough relentless reflection (hansei) and continuous improvement (kaizen).

“How does TPS apply to my business? We do not make high volume cars; we make low-volume, specialized products” or “We are a professional service organization, so TPS does not apply to us”. This line of thinking tells they are missing the point. Lean is not about imitating the tools used by Toyota in a particular manufacturing process. Lean is about developing principles that are right for your organization and diligently practicing them to achieve high performance that continues to add value to customers and society. This, of course, means being competitive and profitable. Toyota’s principles are a great starting point. And Toyota practices these principles far beyond its high-volume assembly lines.

This text has been extracted from Jeffrey K. Liker (2004) The Toyota Way; 14 management principles from the world’s greatest manufacturer.  Ed. Mc Graw-Hill  2004 Find it on Amazon

 
1 Comment

Posted by on June 6, 2009 in Uncategorized

 

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One response to “The Toyota Way is more than Tools and Techniques

  1. E.kobayashi

    April 1, 2010 at 7:20 am

    I am glad to inform you of the publication of my new book about Toyota Production System.
    The book is titled “The truth about Toyota and TPS” and can be found at the following link: http://amzn.com/2917260025

    Regards,
    E. Kobayashi.

     

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