A Japanese Paper on the Spread of TPS


CURRENTS / ‘Toyota way' inspires lean practices

From a Japanese newspaper, an article about the impact the Toyota Production System is having on organizations around the world.

The first example is the U.S. military, the Air Force more specifically:

Since embarking a decade ago on what it described as a “lean journey,” the U.S. Air Force Materiel Command (AFMC) has halved the time taken to overhaul the massive C-5 Galaxy transport aircraft from 339 days to just 171 days. More efficient repair and maintenance work also enables the AFMC–charged with keeping the U.S. Air Force equipped–to keep an additional 100 KC-135 Stratotanker refueling aircraft operational.

Jeff Liker, who has done consulting for the military, described some of the waste in the process:

“They were weak on standardized processes. There was inventory everywhere, the maintenance people were doing as much walking as working. It took a lot of time to turnaround the ships and aircraft,” Liker said. “The turnaround time was a major focus–as an asset under repair is not working for the country and the cost of building more is astronomical.”

The article mentions the Toyota Supplier Support Center (TSSC), a U.S.-based organization that provides assistance to American manufacturers and organzations. The ideal of not using Lean improves to drive layoffs comes straight from Toyota:

TSSC charges fees only to cover labor costs and travel expenses. One precondition TSSC insists on before offering to share its skills is that the company being assisted must agree not to shed workers who become superfluous due to the implementation of kaizen–continuous improvement practices.

Companies are going along with this, thankfully:

“All companies we have helped respect this, and some have even used the surplus workers for expanding production or starting new projects,” Yokoi said. “I believe when team members feel secure in their jobs and are able to contribute to the business conditions of the company, they are more willing to be creative in improving their own processes and working conditions to produce quality products in the most efficient ways.”

It *is* possible to use Lean as a growth strategy, not just for cost cutting. Helping team members feel secure in their jobs, being able to contribute, to be cmreative — that's “Respect for People” in action.

The article then meanders into a discussion of how many Japanese companies are struggling with low productivity… but you can check out the linked article if you're interested in reading more about that.

But, as a great final though, Toyota Chairman Fujio Cho highlights the critical importance of valuing people:

“Manufacturers treating workers as simply one of the ‘three Ms'–men, machines and material–won't develop in terms of international competitiveness,” Cho said. “We firmly believe that we need to value our workers so much that every single one of them feels part of the management of the company and an active participant in everyday business.”

That's so much better than treating people as a cost to be eliminated, isn't it??


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Mark Graban
Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker, and podcaster with experience in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. Mark's new book is The Mistakes That Make Us: Cultivating a Culture of Learning and Innovation. He is also the author of Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More, the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, and the anthology Practicing Lean. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.


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