Podcast #330 – Christoph Roser, His Grand Tour of Japanese Automakers


Joining me today for Episode #330 of the podcast is Christoph Roser, a professor of production management at the Karlsruhe University of Applied Sciences in Germany. He has decades of experience with Lean manufacturing including time with Toyota in Japan, as a consultant at McKinsey & Company, and as a Lean expert and manager at Robert Bosch GmbH. He earned a Ph.D. from the University of Massachusetts.

He is author of the book Faster, Better, Cheaper in the History of Manufacturing: From the Stone Age to Lean Manufacturing and Beyond. You can read his full bio here, via his excellent blog AllAboutLean.com.

Today's discussion was sparked by his series of blog posts about his “grand tour” of automotive factories in Japan. You can read those or check out his overview blog post here. We'll talk about the differences between some of these companies, a bit about Lean in healthcare, and we'll discuss Christoph's concerns about the way Toyota's culture might be changing under CEO Akio Toyoda.

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For a link to this episode, refer people to www.leanblog.org/330.

For earlier episodes of my podcast, visit the main Podcast page, which includes information on how to subscribe via RSS, through Android appsor via Apple Podcasts.  You can also subscribe and listen via Stitcher or Spotify.

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Questions, Topics, and Links:

  • Please introduce yourself to the listeners… how did you get introduced to Lean?
  • How did you get the opportunity to spend fours years studying Toyota?
    • Toyota is your typical Japanese business and not the typical Japanese automaker, right?
    • How consistent is “the Toyota Way” outside of manufacturing?
  • What have you see or heard about Lean healthcare in Japan?
    • Why are you not impressed with Japanese hospitals? (he spent two weeks as a patient in one)
    • Toyota Memorial Hospital is doing really well… what do you see there?
    • Has not yet been to a Lean hospital in Germany, is not sure which ones those are
  • What prompted your “Grand Tour of Japanese Automotive Plants?”
    • What measures did you look at to compare plants?
    • Not everybody in Japan has andon cords, not everybody has kanban even
    • How do German automakers compare?
    • Still has not visited American plants
  • How did you determine that Nissan and Toyota had the highest productivity amongst the Japanese automakers?
    • Is this productivity the result of the smaller team sizes you observed? This seems counterintuitive?
  • Toyota – You write Akio Toyoda is creating a culture of “yes men” – what's the basis for that?    
    • Afraid that he's destroying the Toyota culture? Why?

Thanks for listening!


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Mark Graban is an internationally-recognized consultant, author, and professional speaker who has worked in healthcare, manufacturing, and startups. His latest book is Measures of Success: React Less, Lead Better, Improve More. He is author of the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, as well as The Executive Guide to Healthcare Kaizen. He also published the anthology Practicing Lean that benefits the Louise H. Batz Patient Safety Foundation, where Mark is a board member. Mark is also a Senior Advisor to the technology company KaiNexus.

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