Toyota Wins on Engine Production Metric, Is That What Matters?

Toyota plant retains fastest engine making title

I started my career at a GM V-8 engine plant in the mid 90’s. “Hours per Engine” was the primary metric… at least pre-lean (or really pre-“synchronous manufacturing”, as lean was a dirty word with the UAW).

We benchmarked ourselves against Toyota and a comparable Ford plant. We knew their number, and I’m sure they knew ours. One of the least satisfying things I did there was creating “stack up” charts that attempted to explain away the different in performance on that single metric.

If we had spent as much time focusing on real shopfloor improvement as we did on that metric, just imagine. That chart, and all of the excuse making and explanation, valid or otherwise, was pure muda. Things got better when we got a NUMMI-trained plant manager… we did focus on lean improvements (I mean synchronous), but that metric still was (and I’m sure is) important.

Maybe a better benchmark is “have we eliminated all waste” or “are we perfect”? Maybe a better use of time is time spent solving problems with operators (or teaching them to solve problems) rather than placating the executives with charts and excuses? How do you measure up against that?

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Mark Graban's passion is creating a better, safer, more cost effective healthcare system for patients and better workplaces for all. Mark is a consultant, author, and speaker in the "Lean healthcare" methodology. He is author of the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, as well as The Executive Guide to Healthcare Kaizen. His most recent project is an book titled Practicing Lean that benefits the Louise H. Batz Patient Safety Foundation, where Mark is a board member. Mark is also the VP of Improvement & Innovation Services for the technology company KaiNexus.

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