With apologies to the Got Boondoggle? lean blog, this story is about a group of NHS hospital executives and physicians taking a study trip to Toyota in Japan. Maybe they got the idea from our country's Virgina Mason Medical Center and their trips.
The trip is being criticized (“criticised” I guess) by some who feel that's not a good use of funds that could go to direct patient care (although the spending was defending as coming from specific training funds, not patient care — but still, I can see the point that the money COULD have been allocated to the patient care bucket, even if it had NOT been).
Families of patients denied drugs on the NHS, as well as two GPs, have criticised the trip to study Toyota's “lean management” techniques at a time when cash-strapped health authorities are trying to cut costs.
But the North-East Strategic Health Authority stood by the decision last night, insisting that the lessons learnt would save money and make the NHS more efficient.advertisement
Last month's visit cost £84,000 to fly a 14-strong team to Japan. Officials said the cash came from “central training funds”.
I can certainly understand the NHS position that learning about Lean and the Toyota Production System *is* a good investment. But, do they really have to go to Japan to learn this? Does anybody have to go that far? Some critics suggested they could have visited local UK Nissan or Toyota factories, or other NHS hospitals that are using Lean already.
“…the decision to send a team to Japan was taken because there were no similar examples locally or nationally.”
At the First Global Lean Healthcare Summit alone, you had three examples of Lean success — NHS Bolton Hospital, Unipart, and Tesco.
I can understand people CHOOSING to go to Japan, but to say you HAD to doesn't ring true to me.
Another critic said:
Dr Andrew Saunderson, who recently retired as a GP after working in Spennymoor, County Durham, for 34 years, said: “It strikes me there must be easier ways of getting this information – the internet for example.
“I have to be convinced that a trip to Japan will tell you how they do things. It may not be transferable to our culture, and the technique of making cars is an entirely different process from caring for people.”
Now that critic's not even convinced that Lean isn't “just a Japanese thing” or “just a manufacturing thing.” Common misunderstandings that we have to educate people about.
Who do you go visit when you're learning about Lean? Click “comments” to tell us. How far have you been able to travel to see a “Lean” factory? Would you find value in going to Japan, given language barriers? I've never been to Japan, myself. Would you recommend that Lean students try to visit Toyota Georgetown (TMMK) instead? Was the trip described in this article a “boondoggle?”
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