Thoughts from a Toyota Tour

I received this email and I’m publishing it here with the permission of the anonymous author:

In May, the TMMI Toyota Plant in Princeton, IN held an open house for family and friends of employees to come in and tour the facility. Luckily, a good friend of mine and fellow TPS junkie (who is my main contact when I reach a wall on lean) had an extra ticket and invited me to join him.

As it is not my place to explain the specifics of what I saw, both out of respect for my friend and Toyota, I’ll speak in generalities. When walking through the facility I was awestruck by many things, although almost none of them the kinds of things that most people would pay attention to. The majority of people were gathered around the dancing displays of the welding robots mocking their actions on a body set up, or the bodies moving around to the drive train, or pointing out where their team worked on the line and what they did during their time there.

None of that really appealed to me, nor would I have gotten much out of the tour if I had been looking at this stuff. What really struck me was the absolute fanatical attention to detail in the plant. The things that you miss when looking at an overview are the things that really matter when you are looking at a world class lean facility. Most of the people reading your blog have heard the phrase, “the devil’s in the details.” When talking about lean, that is exactly the truth. Look at waste as the devil and pay attention to the details. People spend too much time worrying about pronouncing Japanese words and whether or not they are using the proper, approved icons when creating value stream maps. The real value in all of these tools is in the absolute elimination of waste and that is what I saw at the Toyota plant. No detail was too small to pay attention to and that is a key reason why they are where they are.

While a lot of the lean leaders can’t influence things like sales strategies and strategic decisions that make the difference between superficial lean and real lean, most of us can influence the depth of detail that people utilize and understand in applying lean on the floor.

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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 eBook 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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