“Adopting and Adapting” TPS to the Raymond Lean Management System


My guest for Episode #390 is Keith Ingels, the TPS (Toyota Production System) Manager for Raymond Corporation — Raymond is part of Toyota Material Handling North America, which is part of Toyota Industries.

Wait, so a Toyota company needs a “TPS Manager?” Yes, when that company was acquired by Toyota, which creates a need to “become more like Toyota” instead of just “being Toyota.” What are the differences between TPS and the Raymond Lean Management System, if any, and why does that terminology matter? What is the “adopt and adapt” strategy and why is that so important?

I want to thank Raymond Corp. for making Keith available and for sharing the videos and resources that I've linked to below. Also, here is an article that Keith had published recently on shifting to a culture of continuous improvement.

I hope you enjoy the conversation like I did. You can listen to the audio or watch the video, below. There is also a full annotated transcript that follows.

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For a link to this episode, refer people to www.leanblog.org/390.

Raymond Lean Management webpage

Videos from Raymond Corp.:

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Raymond Quick Tips Lean Management

Raymond Quick Tips 5S Lean Workplace

Thanks for listening or watching!


Mark Graban: Hi, welcome to “Lean Blog Interviews.” I'm Mark Graban. We're joined today by Keith Ingels. He is the TPS manager at a company called Raymond, and we're going to talk about the company and the work he does and what it means to be a TPS manager there.

Keith, thanks for joining us. How are you?

Keith Ingels: Very well, Mark. Thanks for having me. I really appreciate being on your podcast today.

Mark: I'm glad you're here. We're going to have a really interesting conversation, and it would help the audience because I was unfamiliar until recently about Raymond.

Before talking about some of your career path and your role, if you can let people know about Raymond, and I'm going to let you talk about the corporate parentage because that's an interesting dimension of it.

Keith: Sure. Let me share it. I start with a little bit of the Raymond backstory. Raymond's in upstate New York small factory, and their big claim to fame, the material handling world.

George Raymond Sr. actually patented the pallet originally, but he gave that patent out because he wanted to make equipment so moved it around, so been around a long time.

In the late '90s, Toyota Corp, which has a very large material handling equipment presence, was looking at Raymond to purchase them, and they're a slow and methodical planning company. While they were looking at Raymond, BT came in and bought them in the meantime, a European manufacturer.

Toyota stepped back and thought of it a minute, and then Toyota decided to buy both BT and Raymond, so we've been part of Toyota Material Handling North America for about 20 years, and we roll up to Toyota Material Handling group.

Most people know the Toyota automotive side, but Toyota is manufacturer, makes lots and lots of different products. One of which is, of course, a very dominant international share of material handling equipment, so we are a part of that chain.

We focus in electric equipment in North America, and continuous improvement is a big aspect of ours. It's helped our factory, and it's helping our distribution network greatly right now.

Mark: It's no surprise being part of the Toyota family of companies. I mean, I've seen plenty of Toyota forklifts when I've had an opportunity to go and visit wineries and distilleries.

The Toyota trucks are often quite prominent and used quite a bit in moving barrels or pallets of bottles around, so we do see that, but that is maybe surprising to many people who only associate Toyota with cars and trucks, etc.

Keith: Now we make all kinds of things.

Mark: That's interesting history thinking back to speaking of pallets and how ubiquitous that is. We might not think of that as a technology, but that was invented. It's interesting that that was patented.

Keith: People will join material handling. I'm part of that logistics supply chain, if you will. People will join and start in this industry, and they'll say, “I don't see many forklifts around.” After you're in the business, you're going to see them everywhere. Because if it's a product that moves, we help move it. It's a lot of fun.

A Toyota fork truck at a winery in France

Mark: You see the big bold Toyota letters on the back. That does jump out. It'd be good to hear a little bit about some of your own background, Keith. A little bit about your career arc. Did you first learn about the Toyota production system as part of Raymond?

Keith: Actually, I'm a little bit unique in that I've been on both sides of the Toyota Material Handling North America. I started out on the Toyota side after many years in material handling, had the opportunity to manage the operations in the Cincinnati market for years in a Toyota-owned dealership.

After several years there, I had the opportunity to move to a training quality role at Carolina Handling, which is a Raymond dealership.

The two brands support each other. We're very familiar with Raymond and really like the product. It's high-tech. It's got a lot of cutting-edge activities. I really wanted to join that group.

Photo courtesy of Raymond Corporation

I started my Toyota journey on the Toyota side but had the opportunity after joining the Raymond side. We had senseis come in. For a little over two years, I had Atsuhiro Hayakawaas my sensei. Very fortunate to have worked with him very closely.

He was very tough. I learned incredible amount from him. He just kept raising the bar. Continuous improvement, right? Lean. Get better, get better. That's good. Get better.

Keith Ingels

Mark: Celebrate maybe for a second, and then onto the next challenge.

Keith: Yes. Very much the thinking and the culture of it. Yes. When you make that culture and make people realize they can do that, that it's within their grasp to keep getting better, it's a lot of fun.

Mark: Good. We'll have a chance to explore that culture within Raymond and the different lessons that come from Toyota, and even what you've learned there within Raymond. It's a slightly different type of business.
You mentioned some of that sensei education and coaching. Looking forward now, or jumping ahead to today and more recent future, tell us about your role as a TPS manager.

It's interesting to me that a Toyota company would need a Toyota TPS manager.

Mark Graban

Keith: It's a lot of fun for me. Sometimes, we started to brand it as Raymond Lean Management on our side, just for our peace of recognition. A lot of times, people will tell me that I'm teaching commonsense. I won't disagree with them, but I will challenge them back and say, “Well, we're trying to make commonsense common practice.” Then sometimes, I'll get that light bulb going.

It is a system. The strength of the system is it's developed for many years.

It's really always about simplifying things to take those small manageable steps forward, as you mentioned earlier. Keep raising that bar. It's not meant to be overwhelming. It's truly meant to be fun and help people understand how they contribute, what their role is, and adding value to the greater organization.

Keith Ingels

We think we know that. A lot of times, we don't understand our value-add. When I can help people see that and learn how they can make it even better, it's just such a great experience.

Mark: I've talked to a number of guests. This phrase “common sense” is interesting. Maybe we just delve into that a little bit more. To me, I think of it as hindsight commonsense. After we've been exposed to it, people say, “Well, OK, now that seems obvious.”

There are many things, I think, about TPS approaches, or if we'll call it Lean, that are in some ways counterintuitive. What are your thoughts on that?

Keith: It is. For example, when we start to visualize things, one of the first challenges is getting people excited about the process.

One of the things we'll teach them is we need to visualize it to make it apparent. A lot of times, we'll see them go from nothing to label everything. We want to step back and say, “Does that add value?”

The rule of thumb becomes, does the visual add value to other people working in the area?

Keith Ingels

The more different people that work in the area, the more visual support you might need. Things like that become counterintuitive.

You don't want me to label everything. Label it if it adds value.

You got to think about it. Know when to reach for a tool. It's not as easy as a tool.

We're going to give you the thinking. We're going to teach you the method behind it, the concept. Then if you need a tool, grab the tool.

Mark: I appreciate you saying that. I've seen sometimes people, out of enthusiasm, they go overboard. They'll label everything. They put tape around everything in a 5S effort. I don't mean to mock that. There are learning opportunities that come to light.

Expanding on to your point, I think there's a different threshold and level required when it is your own desk that nobody else uses, versus, say, in a hospital setting, a shared “nurses' station” that is used by dozens of different people in different roles in shared workspaces.

Now, you think of an example, maybe get your reactions to this, of printing out and putting a label on a printer that says printer doesn't add much.

Keith: I've seen it.

Mark: I've seen it. Maybe early days in my own Lean journey, I did it. I try to coach people maybe to avoid some of that, or to learn from it if we start getting complaints that, “Hey, this starts seeming silly.” Putting a tape outlined around a very heavy printer. That printer never moves. It never goes missing. Why would we have to put tape around it to show where it goes?

Let's say you have three different printers in a shared nurses' station, and there's constant confusion over which printer is which. Then putting a big sign that says Printer A, Printer B, Printer C can help nurses or other people not expand their personal spaghetti diagram of running from printer to printer. “Oh, which one did it print out on?”

Keith: Yes. When there's frustration in workplace, that's what we're trying to teach people to reduce.

You give a great example. People mark stapler on their desk. I'm like, “OK, do you know that your stapler goes there?” “Yes.” “Do you know someone who use it?” “Yes.” Then I don't need that visual.

I had one group I'd been called out to work with. It was a vendor battery company. They were setting up a different workplace. They had tools. They had a big tool bench. They'd never done the prepare the workplace, the 5S thinking and to get the workplace ready, they'd never done it.

They very enthusiastically would lay out the tools, and they would try to figure it out. Then they would carefully label every tool. Then they'd decide it didn't work that way, so they'd move stuff. They'd carefully label everything again.

They call me back in. I didn't know they were doing this. They call me back and they're very upset with me.

“We're all labeling and stuff like crazy. It's just not working.” I said, “Wait.” I said, “You're still vetting out the process.” They said, “Well, yeah.” I said, “OK, but you're trying to have a visual to help identify where the tools are.” They said, “Yeah.” I said, “Could you do something easier?” They said, “What do you mean?”

“What if I take a picture of the tools in place and hang it up by the tools, could you tell where the tools go?” “Well, yeah.” I said, “Great, do that. Take one picture. Don't label everything.” You could actually see the light bulb go off, like, “Oh.” I said, “I'm not trying to make it difficult. We just need to be able to see. That's all.”

Until you get it vetted out, it's going to take a while. I say painters tape and markers are your friend when you're first getting started, because you're going to change it. You're going to change it. You've never done it that way before. You're going to have learning and make it better.

Mark: To your point of not making work harder, I think we step back and we could ask, what's the value or what's the benefit? How is it helpful to mark where tools go? We might spend less time searching for tools. That's the important thing.

Why does it matter to spend less time searching for tools? Our changeovers could be quicker. Why does it matter that our changeovers are quicker? We could continue that train of thought all the way back to purpose and end goals for the company or the organization.

Keith: Absolutely. We want them to learn those early lessons, too, because they're going to carry forward as they become more advanced.

As they become more advanced, we teach them two different areas, just-in-time, and Jidoka, we can refer to that as quality. Just-in-time and quality. That's the customer experience.

Those early lessons or visuals, they're going to carry forward. They're getting more advanced, but they're still going to be there. Ownership is a great example. I'll walk in a parts area, for example, recently, and I said, “Oh, the area's a little bit disarray.” I said, “Who owns it?” “Parts team.”

“No, that wasn't my question.” I said, “Who owns it?” “

Keith Ingels

Well, Parts team.” I said, “No, follow me on this. If everyone owns it, no one owns it.” “Who in parks?” I said, “You need to specify that.”

The other piece is what a great boost to morale when somebody has maybe their name and picture in that area. That area is taken care of. The supplies are there, the tools are there. That area is stage work ready.

Then it carries on into delivering that on time defect-free to the customer experience as they get more advanced in the process.

Mark: You're talking about not making work harder. I saw an article a couple of weeks ago, I blogged about it. Akio Toyoda CEO, of course, of Toyota Corporate was teaching, internally, a class about the Toyota Production System over in Japan.

Two things came up very strongly, clearly in that article when he talked about, basically, why is this important, and in whatever order. He really emphasized making work easier for people. That's how I was taught Kaizen. Going back to Norman Bodek, who learned from Toyota people and others in Japan.

Making work easier is an admirable goal. It usually aligns with being better for the company. Then the second thing he emphasized was shortening lead times, which is that just-in-time focus. Jidoka and built-in quality helps us reduce lead times. This all goes hand in hand.

There's this consistency in what I hear you saying in upstate New York and what your parent company CEO is saying over in Japan.

Keith: Yes. Raymond network is very aligned with it. In fact, at the factory level, years ago, when they first started the production TPS at Raymond factory, it's landlocked. It's in a small upstate New York valley. There's just nowhere to go geographically.

They had to boost production within that footprint. They've done that some two and a half times over, where our production was about two and a half times greater today than it was before we started that system. Our production's greater than they anticipated that factory output to be capable of when they calculated it. It's been a lot of fun.

Keith Ingels

It's doing ultimately more with less. I watch people get in tremendous results with this stuff. One of the challenges is you can't let it overwhelm you. I like that in your measuring success book. How do you get metrics, but don't make them overwhelming? That's one of our challenges as well.

If you look at the entire mountain and you say, “I've got to ascend to the peak,” that's a daunting task. If you just look in front of you and say, “I'm going to take a step,” well, I can do that. Great. Now take another step.

Now, all of a sudden, after a while, you're taking the steps, you're looking around going, “Hey, I'm going up the mountain,” you had this realization. To your point, it is a little counterintuitive. We think we have to jump to the top of the mountain. That's not even possible. We can get there.

Mark: It's one step at a time. I've seen that work well in different organizations that embrace Kaizen as daily continuous improvement. Small steps, baby steps, small improvements. I think back to one of my previous podcast guests you might be interested in, Keith, Bob Maurer, who's a professor of psychology at UCLA.

As a clinician, he went and studied Kaizen as a series of principles and practices. He makes a lot of interesting connections to the way our brain works. I think the key point summary of what he's discovered, which I think seems intuitive to those of us who have experience with this, is that when people propose a really large change, it can become overwhelming.

If a doctor tells a patient, “You need to start exercising 45 minutes a day,” that seems overwhelming. The fight-or-flight instinct, and our reptile brain kicks in. Then guess what, we do nothing. Dr. Moore learned, and this is what you reminded me of.

You're home on the couch watching TV, commercial comes on, get up and walk in place for 30 seconds. Then 60 seconds. Then the entire commercial break. He's learned that, gosh, if we don't get started with baby steps, we'll probably never get started. Getting started with baby steps allows us then to take bigger leaps and make more progress.

Keith: Well said.

Mark: I'll share a link off to look up that episode…

Keith: I'd appreciate that. No, that sounds very, very, very exciting. I'd like to see that.

Mark: I was going to ask you more. You mentioned the Raymond Lean Management system. I'm curious, from your perspective, is that meant to be different from TPS or the Toyota way, or is it really a matter of the labeling and what you call it? That it's Raymond's system and you use the word Lean? I'm curious if you could tell us more about that.

Keith: Sure.

Across the Toyota network, TPS is adopted. We use the expression adopt then adapt. Adopt the system first the way it's taught, but then adapt it to your specific needs and your specific customer experience, really.

Keith Ingels

Raymond Lean Management is our adaptation. It has some interesting migrations. It's the same system exactly, but it's our adaptation. For example, we're rolling it out now. This is my role to the distribution network, our solution and support centers.

We're going into them. In some instances, this is maybe a new thing for them. They're very quality-focused, but we're giving them this structure in the system to speed that up, that thinking up, and implement it faster by those small rapid steps. It can be a little bit of a shift, a little bit of a change.

Also, I was taught the Japanese, and so I'm very comfortable with it, but I find teaching American students sometimes get lost in Japanese, and that's not the value-add. If I can teach the go and see, and you don't want to learn Genchi Genbutsu, that's fine.

I need you to go out to know that you got to go see the problem for real at the space so that you understand.

Keith Ingels

There's those concepts we march out. We've put together some great training for it because we don't have that immersive environment.

If I walk into a Toyota facility — it's Toyota culture, it's an immersive environment — some of our network we're building that environment and starting really often at lower levels and building up.

It's very exciting when they get to the point they bring customers for tours and customers are like, “Oh, this is how you do things,” and they see the visuals and it's like, “Oh,” and that really energizes them to do more.

Then, we will support customers when they ask. We try to control that because we can easily be overwhelmed. A lot of people want to do this stuff, and we want to support them.

Mark: That choice of language is part of the adapt, like you said. Earlier, we think about forklifts and wineries and distilleries, a very intentionally.
I almost said, “Oh, when I go to the Gemba at a winery.” I don't have to say it that way. I could say when I go to a winery, where the wine is made as a translation to that.

It's interesting to think about where words become a barrier. Genchi Genbutsu and the Gemba versus go and see at the shop floor. Different ways of expressing the same thing. One of those sets of words might sometimes be a barrier.

It's very situational, depending on, say, the organization I'm a part of. Some people embrace the words and say, “Well, these are new concepts, so we're going to learn a new word to help maybe better explain the concept.” Then, there's some places that say, “No, let's keep the language simple.”

Keith: To your point, one of the barriers we've found…I guess I didn't anticipate it, maybe should've, but the word production. People hear production, and they, “Oh, you're talking about factory line.”

Without a doubt, it's more famous for being on a factory line, but it's the simple thinking. Getting a workplace ready, that doesn't matter what you do. That can be at home. We talked the other day about, “Do you take this at home?” I'm thrilled when I see people take it home because then I know they're going to bring it to work.

Wherever you start, and you see this stuff works. That's fine because you'll bring it to work. It's got to be simple. It's got to be within that grasp. Production would cause people to stop. “No, I'm not on production.” “Back up. Breathe. Follow me on this.”

Mark: This translation from Toyota Production System to Raymond System Lean instead of production…

Keith: It's Lean Management.

Mark: You emphasized the other thing I wanted to maybe unpack a little bit is the idea of it being a system. How do you help articulate…? System, to me, implies there are interconnected pieces. How do you teach that within Raymond?

Keith: Mark, we've talked a bit, and you might have picked up on. I like to tell stories and share examples. One of the things I'll…

Mark: That's what the podcast is for…

Keith: Exactly…

Mark: …I interrupt. Sorry.

Keith: No, you're fine. One of the examples I've started using was we're trying to bring a beautiful orchestra together with all the instruments playing beautiful music. Working in concert together to make this gorgeous music. This magnificent experience.

I have to teach these one instrument at a time. I can't teach you the whole orchestra. I can't teach you the whole piece of music. Today, we can study the trumpet. Tomorrow, maybe the violin. The next day, maybe the flute, and so on. Then, people started, “Oh” You're going to get bits and pieces, and that's OK.

The other thing, Mark, I teach a lot, and I find a lot of trainers picking up from me.

I'll go around saying, “You can't break the system. You can't break TPS. You can't break RLM. You can't break it.” People will say, “I don't want to try, I'll break it.” You won't break it. You might learn something that didn't work. That's OK. You need to embrace that.

Keith Ingels

People will say, “Well, how did you get so good at this?” First, I'm not that good at it. I've made a lot of mistakes that's given me a lot of experience. I have some great stories of things that didn't work well. I'm happy to share those.

Mark: Let's come back to that. We'll come back to that theme of learning through mistakes. That's an important topic for me.

I was going to come back to this idea of it being a system. It is Raymond's system. When you talk about adopt and adapt, what happens when you talk about maybe evolution?

If there are different needs within the Raymond business, compared to Toyota, how much can that system evolve on its own, even if it's a slightly different evolutionary path than what Toyota is taking? Is part of your job to reconcile some of that? Tell us about that, please.

Keith: We'll help an area.

Generally, we'll start in the simple pieces, which is workplace organization, or what I like to refer to as workplace readiness.

Keith Ingels

Naturally, what people will term 5S. The first time we teach 5S, and I'm sure you've experienced this, Mark, people think, “Oh, you mean housekeeping?” I mean a lot more than housekeeping.

Workplace readiness, supplies, tools, and order. Then we're going to take that into, and you mentioned before, just in time, naturally flow. We want the process to flow. Whether we're delivering a service or a product, we want that process to flow. We're going to ask leading questions.

Can we see what our day's activity is for our customer expectations? Can we see that? Is there a schedule of activities? That doesn't matter in our world if it's parts, if it's service, if it's rental orders. Whatever that customer expectation we are fulfilling, can we see and respond to it effectively?

Then the other big piece is quality. Are we doing that customer expectation? Are we meeting it consistently and getting better at it, or worse? Do we know? How do we know? We've got to have those visuals and go through it.

Keith Ingels

Depending on where the challenge piece is will be where we'll give some focus. Ultimately, the other pieces will be drawn in. You mentioned it earlier, if you start working on just in time resource flow, if you make a lot of disruptions or defects, as we'll refer to them, that's going to impede that flow. Then you're going to have to start, “Oh, wait, I've got to improve my quality.”

They work in tandem. You don't do one without the other. It's OK to start in one area, and then realize and draw in the other areas. That's how we start to teach it. As you said earlier, we're trying to make it easy for people.

If we start to give them the system, there are books, there are libraries on this stuff. We'll blow them apart. Our objective is to make them realize they can contribute and be part of this even at the earliest levels.

Mark: Yes. That idea that everybody can contribute comes back to phrases, either respect for people or respect for humanity. Those phrases are used a lot by Toyota. Challenge is a word that's used a lot as well. Then I want to hear more of your thoughts on this.

Where sometimes, people maybe misunderstand respect as being easy on people. You told the story earlier, about the senseis pushing in a positive direction. Can you talk a little bit more about the dynamics of how challenge is respectful?

Keith: Sure. Those are two values that are important. The cultural piece is one we'll work on. It's a little bit intangible, but you can feel it. The respect piece is, to your point, it's not about being easy on people. It's about helping them find their strengths and let that shine. That challenge is part of how we do that.

We're not talking about a disrespectful challenge would be blaming people, as opposed to look at the process.

People, in my experience, want to add value. They don't always know how. Then the other paradigm shift you get into is if I do this process every day, I'll work into a habit.

I'll have a system, whether it's documented or not, it may be what we call tribal knowledge, and not documented, but I'll have a way I do things. After a while, I'll quit looking at that for improvement, because that's just how I do it.

We want to challenge them to step back and look at that. I've been in customer sites all over the country beyond just logistics. I don't walk in these customers and have expertise of what they do.

I have an array of great questions to ask to draw on their expertise and see what they know that could be done or needs to be done. I want to help them see with a different set of eyes. That's what we do. Who is the expert of the work being performed? It's the person that does the work. We respect that.

We also are going to draw that my job or our job as coaches is to support that and help them draw out things that they're trying to see, but maybe they're a little too close. Back them up, breathe for a moment. As you said earlier, tell me how to make it easier. That's great coaching.

If I say, “Tell me how to make it efficient,” I don't get a lot of answers for that. I say, “Tell me how to make it easier,” I'll give you a list.

That list is Kaizen opportunity. That's improvement opportunity. Let's go through that list. Let's make some of these changes.

“I wish I had some supplies here at the ready.” “OK, let's work on that.” “Wish I knew when those trucks were scheduled to go out.” “Great, we can help you.” Then it becomes this really robust conversation.

Mark: When you talk about challenge, and I think I heard you touch on this, but I'm going to ask you to elaborate. You talk about coming at, let's say, if you're going into a new organization to help them adopt and adapt TPS Raymond Lean Management system.

You can come out from one direction of, “I'm going to teach you certain methods and approaches.” Then I go back to one of the Taiichi Ohno famous green book. There's one chapter where the header says, “Start from need.” Where's the balance of engaging people versus looking at business objectives, challenges, or gaps that need to be solved in a measurable way?

Keith: Getting those early metrics is one of our ongoing key challenge. If we're successful getting people excited to start to implement, the best way I can say as I've observed it is planning doesn't feel like doing. If they get excited, they jump in and start doing.

Then somebody like me, I'll come in, or you, Mark, and we'll say, “So, how much impact did you have?” “Well, it feels like a lot.” No. I need the measurement.

We'll start to coach them to get that baseline metric. The other thing where we try to coach them is one step at a time.

If you implement five changes simultaneously, three of those might have helped you, two of those might actually have set you back. You don't know which did what. It's that slow down to speed up mentality, like, “Why don't we do them one at a time?” It's going to move you faster.

I'm a fan of moving fast. Speed is key, we'll say it. To do that, you got to slow down.

I'm not telling you slow down to slow down, I'm telling you to slow down so you can actually speed up.

Mark: That's one of those things that I think is counterintuitive, and in hindsight, seems like commonsense to people, maybe. I think an important thing is understanding cause and effect. This is something I've learned from former Toyota people I've worked with, and learned from Pascal Dennis, and others. Always talking about testing and evaluating, cause and effect.
We have a countermeasure, we test it, and see what the effect is. To your point, if we're testing multiple things at once, that cause and effect gets confused, possibly.

Keith: Yes. It makes us feel good, because we feel like we're doing so much. That's maybe not a good thing. To your point, being part of that counterintuitive, we have to teach a little bit. Making the measurements, the metrics palatable a lot of times.

You know this, Mark. People get afraid of measuring things, or they get afraid of metrics, or they think it's overwhelming. It's really not.

If you can give me number of physical steps, for example, then I can convert that to time. We have formulas for that.

Give me how many steps to take before. You move a cabinet of tools. You moved it closer. How many steps did you reduce? How many times did you do it? Three times a day times… We can figure that all out. It doesn't have to be overwhelming. Take that intimidation factor out of the measurements.

It's one of the challenges. “I'll just jump and start doing.” Plan. Planning is good.

Mark: Plan, do, study, adjust. Here's a terminology thing.

Keith: True.

Mark: It's not a major thing. Do you say plan, do, check, act, or plan, do, study, adjust? There's different versions of that language. It's the mindset that matters. What language you use?

Keith: We teach it from plan, do, check, act, because we find it the more common terminology. I've heard you use adjust a lot. I actually prefer adjust myself, but I'll teach as act, just so people get used to it.

The other thing we teach is it's a cycle. One of the things I find necessary, and the analogy I use, Mark, is, I said, “Would you go out in your driveway, start your car, and roll your car forward one rotation of the tires?” “No, that's silly. I wouldn't get anywhere.”

I said, “OK. PDCA, don't stop at one rotation. Keep going.” That's what's going to get you there. I went through the whole cycle. OK. Let's keep moving…

Mark: Not this cycle, but cycle.

Keith: Not this cycle, the cycles.

Mark: That's the mindset that matters more than the words, I would say. I've had chances to go to Japan, different companies. We talk about PDCA. They'll say a very common expression, or at least through the translators, is, “Spin the PDCA cycles.” PDSA. I planned, I tried to say it, and those words didn't come out of my mouth. It's a defect.

Keith: I like the study piece, too. It tells us, what have we learned? That's one of those things, sometimes people are frustrated. “This didn't work the way we thought it would.” Great. That means we learned something. That's not a wasted effort. There's a value-add in learning. We assess that value-add.

Making mistakes can be very value-add.

That doesn't sound right. Sure it is. I'll tell coaches that. Sometimes you have to let the student struggle, because that's how they learn.

If you just give them the answer, you're handing that proverbial fish instead of teaching them to fish. That's not sustainable. Got to let them struggle a bit.

I'm not talking to the point of frustration, but let them struggle to go, “Oh, wait a minute, I see.” That gets back to your question, how do we respectfully challenge? That's part of that. If we hand them the answers, they didn't learn.

Mark: That's a great point. One other thought. When it comes to that language, I almost wish instead of plan, do, that we would say plan, test. To me, that word test implies something that we will learn from. I've seen, unfortunately, an organization uses the language, but they think very linearly.

We planned, we did, we checked it, we acted, we're done. I'm glad you emphasize those iterative cycles.

Keith: I like that test, Mark. I'm always going to give you credit for sharing that with Lean, but I am going to use that, just so you know.

Mark: It's part of, I guess, a high-level PDCA cycle in life. We plan the language we use, we do, and that at some point, we can study an adjusted…PTSA might confuse people with the parent teacher…

One of the things I was going to ask you about words, so there are… Oh, boy. I try not get getting drawn into it, but sometimes you see just these really looks like time-consuming debates online about Lean versus TPS.

There are some people that will argue vociferously that Lean is different. Then, there are some that will say, “Well, Lean is just a different term that Womack and Jones and others use to say as a more palatable label.”

Let's say when I started my career at GM, you couldn't say the word Toyota. The word Lean has its challenges, but I guess the question I was going to ask you, do you view — at least the way you are approaching Lean — Lean and TPS as synonyms, or is there more to it than that? How do you see things?

Keith: I always get feedback. We talked about the value-add. The value-add is from our customer. As a coach, as a leader, instructor, my customer is my student, so I have to find ways to communicate to them that resonate.
A lot of times, I find myself saying, continuous improvement Lean in kind of a comparative. If you think of Lean, that's leaning out an existing process. That's getting that resource down on the floor getting right.

If I say continuous improvement, sometimes it feels like I can say, “Well, I may change the process entirely. I may not use a landline phone anymore. I may go to a mobile phones completely different process.”

Mark: Or, Zoom all together.

Keith: Zoom, exactly, all together. How do we get our thinking to broaden? We use the same thing with our customers, and part of our education is optimized before you automate.

We have to learn to look at their process before we… We have some great automation solutions, but if it just speeds up the defect rate, we're all going to have a bad experience, so let's look at that process. Make sure it's at least pretty good before we start.

Mark: Don't automate the wasted motion, not the part of the equation with them.

Keith: To your point earlier, that's one of those counterintuitive points too. “Oh, just speed everything up. It'll be great.” Not necessarily.

Mark: You bring up very frequently this idea of what is your value add, who is your customer.

Recently, I had a chance to interview Steve Spear, who in his study of Toyota was able to go work and learn directly from Mr. Hajime Oba who just passed away in September. He was very famous. Among other things, he created the TSSC organization originally called Toyota Supplier Support Center.

Steve Spear was sharing his recollections of how Mr. Oba would go into a workplace, and he would go and talk to an individual and ask, “From whom does this work come?” Looking up to the internal supplier.

Steve was remembering that Mr. Oba wanted a name, not to single out of blame, but in terms of relationships and respect. Steve said the answer would be, “Well, that comes from Alice, not that comes from final inspection.” Mr. Oba emphasized, “Then, who is your customer for this work?”

I guess, it's a roundabout way of asking either, “Did you have a chance to work with Mr. Oba, or did those ideas in general? How does that approach to looking at a process resonate with you and what you teach?”

Keith: I didn't have the opportunity to work with Mr. Oba. I have worked with people from TSSC over the years, and it resonates a great deal, because it gets back into…

I find internally in our network, we tend to distinguish an internal person that we're handing our work off to from an external customer. The problem that creates is no matter where we are in the process, it's going to end up at an external customer, so it's sometimes difficult to coach, “Well, I'm just handing it over to Bob that works next beside me, and he's going to give it to Alice. I know that we're all friends, who work together.”

If you pass a defect, then they've got to either catch it, fix it, or give it back to you. If they miss it, it goes out the door, the customer gets it. Your customer can be the next person in line, which is important to know. We want to know that you're part of that delivery to that customer experience, that end customer, even if it's somebody internal.

We tend to lower that, like, “Oh, it'll be fine. It's internal.” No.

Mark: I'm going to throw off the cuff question at you here. It seems like a Toyota-ish question, because I was taught that this would often be asked. Not to put you on the spot.

Keith, in your role as Raymond Lean Management system/TPS manager, what are your top three challenges right now in that work?

Keith: Sure. They're fun to look at those and break them down. First is we're serving the network. Finding out what type of coaching and training we need to develop to help that network. A lot of times, I mentioned, Toyota's got an immersive environment already.

One of my RLM associates, she works with me. She taught English as a foreign language and English as a second language. If you're in an English immersive environment, learning English is pretty easily. If you're in France, and you're trying to learn English, not so many people speak it. If they do, they have a heavy French accent. It's going to be more difficult.

First is, how do we build upon and create that immersive environment support? The other piece is getting more people at a level. We're building a pyramid, if you will. How do we get what we call champions of this process up to bring dry and more people with them?

Ultimately, we want the whole network to be thinking like this. Then find those opportunities to better support our customer to improve that customer experience one, by one, by one. It's getting that coaching to the network, getting those champions to help lead it, and then converting that to the best possible customer experience.

Those are big opportunities. We're going to get to it, because we're going to break them down in those manageable bites. There's days, Mark, I won't kid you, I look at that, and I go… [sighs] I'm too overwhelmed. Coach yourself, breathe. What's the next step?

What's the next step? It's difficult. I tell people. A lot of times, when I'm helping others, I'm doing a lot of self-coaching.

Mark: That's a good point. Thanks for let me put you on the hot seat. I figured that wouldn't be a difficult question for you to answer. You knew right off what those challenges were. Maybe just before moving on from that in general, what are your thoughts on prioritizing?

I was always taught that question about what are your top three challenges is partly to test how a leader is prioritizing things. How do you coach others around prioritizing, especially early on when we are not Toyota, and we may see waste everywhere?

Keith: Sure.

Mark: Is it a matter of lots of baby steps in parallel? How would you try to prioritize bigger challenges?

Keith: One of the early ways it comes in, and people will overwhelm. It's a common problem that they get very excited about this, and they start trying to do everything. One of the things I learned, and this is another one of those examples of self-coaching, what is your customer's priority?

A lot of times, we'll start making changes assuming, and I'm going to do my air quotes, assuming we know, but we didn't go talk to them. I'll give you a great example. I developed what I call operational training, which is the pyramids, just in time in quality training.

With incredibly consistent feedback, they wanted to learn the concept of weak point management before we talked about some of the smaller breakouts of PDCA, and etc. I didn't want to do it in that sequence, but I defer to my customer. They wanted to understand why we were walking into all these other pieces.

The receipt of it was better, because I was giving customer experience. Now, is that the way I would have thought to deliver it? Mark, it's not. I'm not the target audience. The same thing with the terminology we talked about earlier.

I've been around the Japanese for many years. I'm comfortable with it. I had to learn it. At first, I wasn't comfortable. I'm comfortable with it now. I'm over that paradigm shift, but you know what? The people I'm responsible to, I need to convert to English. It's all good. It's whatever that customer needs. What is the customer priority? Give focus to that. A lot of times, it can surprise us.

Mark: My challenge for healthcare listeners in the audience, that question extends really well. What do our patients really prioritize? Don't fall into the trap of assuming, but go and ask. Does a little bit of efficiency matter?
I would always make the argument that to me, the best patient experience is a safe patient experience. Are we working on things that are maybe somewhat superficial or are we working on the most important issues related to harm and death that could occur as the result of medical error? That's my challenge for the audience. Any thoughts or inspirational words around that, Keith?

Keith: Sure. One of the other areas I coach on if you're looking for priorities is we're very specific of how we put out the metric areas. Mark, you've probably come across this.

It's safety, quality, cost, delivery, morale, and environment. Safety is always the first.

Mark: Environment meaning being beyond work environment, meaning impact on the environment more broadly?

Keith: Yes. We're talking about the total environment. We want to measure that. A lot of facilities I've worked with are zero landfill facilities. I love to use those examples. They didn't become zero landfill in one swoop. They started with let's recycle all this paper we're printing, let's recycle some aluminum cans. It comes in phases. It's one of my favorite examples.
Larger facilities have on-site restaurant food service. One of the last things they'll recover is usually that leftover food. They do compost. That's over time, but it's such a great exampl

You can't throw out anything. What? I can't throw…? No. You're going to get there in a few phases. It's an achievable target because others have done it. Safety is always… I'm sorry. Go ahead.

Mark: I'm sorry. I was going to say zero harm or eliminating harm to staff or patients may seem overwhelming, but I was going to suggest it's many steps to get there.

Keith: Absolutely. To your point, safety is the first and quality is the second. Keep those today's focus.

Mark: Even going back to my days in the auto industry 20 plus years ago, it was SQDC. Then people also started talking about morale. Less often and more recently here, environment being added to that.

You might be interested. When I was working with a hospital lab in the children's hospital — this is over 12 years ago — we were trying to engage everybody in Kaizen. They used the word Kaizen, but we call it continuous improvement. There was a big focus on serving patients, making your work easier.

As that culture started to grow because of the interest of people in the group, there was a large number of people in the staff that started gravitating towards environmental issues of reducing single-use plastic in lab operations and looking at different alternatives.

That was very self-initiated for that broader purpose of the environment and the planet. When you make it fun and you make it easy for people to participate in that, they'll do it.

Keith: Well said, Mark.

Mark: One other thing I want you to touch on, you mentioned earlier the idea of learning from mistakes. Assumptions can be a form of mistake. I remember having drilled into my head, I think of Tracy and Ernie Richardson, who were retired Toyota, always emphasizing what do you know and how do you know it? That was drilled into them. Those are really useful questions.

We might learn we've made a mistake in assumption. Maybe more broadly, how do you create an environment where it's safe to embrace mistakes as a way of learning and getting better? How do you work on doing that at Raymond?

Keith: That's a great question. It's one we try to tackle every day. It's one we're trying to break down. It goes back to the early piece you said, respect and challenge. We have to have those values in there. It has to become part of a culture, a thinking.

One of the examples I use always is because we're a large extended service organization, when something breaks, we go fix it. That resonates to our solutions and support centers because they have service teams.

If we can't find what's broken, we can't fix it. We've got to find what's broken so we can fix it.

Just because we don't know it's there, it's still broken and it's still not functioning the way we want. We've got to uncover it. It's a big challenge and can be very frustrating. It's an easy paradigm to say, “If Joe can't do it fast enough, I'll put Mary in there and she'll do it fast.”

It's very easy to become people-focused, but you might have someone that can just execute a poor process more rapidly, but it's still not sustainable. They might have some talent or some knack to it, but that's not a sustainable process build. We want to teach that. We teach it, that it's a good thing.

That's a big challenge for us to overcome, Mark. I won't kid you. We have a lot of problem with that one because people are taught from young up that if you're the one who found the mistake, it might be your mistake. Now it's on you.

We have to almost untrain some of that and change that paradigm, that thinking to finding something that's wrong is good, because now we have the opportunity to fix it. We've got to look at it as opportunity. One of the things we've done is, typically, we'll say defect. A lot of times, we'll start calling it disruption. We don't want a customer disruption.

Defect is like, “Oh, something's wrong.” However we have to call it out, if it's a disruption to the customer experience, fine. Call it out, but make it where we can embrace it as an opportunity. That's what it is. It really is.

We're employed because we fix things. We make something better. That's why we have jobs. I think that's a good thing.

Mark: At least, I believe with current technology, robots are not able to learn and get better and improve the process. If there are times where we have back to the priorities of safety and quality. I always had drilled into my head from my mentors. We only automate something if it's safer for the people working there.

There might be some cases where they've got to see a Toyota assembly plant. Some welding is better done by robots, some painting is better done by robots, and some painting is well done by hand or by people with sprayers. Engaging everybody in that improvement, really important.

When we attempt improvements, we plan, and we test, and we study, we may learn it didn't go as we predicted. That's learning.

I'm going to give a plug. You might be interested in it, Keith. Maybe I'll have you as a guest. When I brought up mistakes, he chuckled. I know from what we've talked before you're like me. Like, “Yeah. We make mistakes all the time.”

My new podcast called “My Favorite Mistake,” where we have people reflect on a mistake that was a particularly important learning experience in their journey. I'm going to give a quick plug.

Mark: You might want to also go find My Favorite Mistake.

Maybe one other question for you because I think it's interesting where you're positioned being part of Toyota Industries. Having been part of it for 20 years, and clearly still being in the stage of a “journey” of still progressing, and teaching, and learning from Toyota.

It seems like there's a big difference between being Toyota versus, if you will, trying to become Toyota.

Mark Graban

As you mentioned, you're on that unlearning process and changing paradigms.

I'm curious, what else you've learned, having come in to Raymond from other parts of Toyota? How would you articulate that challenge, and again this maybe isn't the best way of saying it, of being Toyota versus becoming Toyota?

Keith: That's a great question, Mark. It's one we wrestle with a little bit at Raymond. There's a great history in the Raymond Corporation of quality and customer experience, and delivering top levels of product and cutting edge technologies for the time. How we integrate this system, which is different, a little bit, right? It's a way to speed that thinking up and really make it faster or better.

It's like adding a richer soil to the seed. The seed's growing and the plant is staying well, but we wanted to do even better, so we want that soil to be richer for the progress to take a stronger, better root and have a better experience.

One of the advantages I really feel, while I've enjoyed the Raymond side is, Raymond had the challenge to learn the system really to a large extend from the ground up. That is a bit of an advantage in some ways, because when you're a Toyota facility, you just assume everything's Toyota, right?

But, when you're a Raymond facility, you've got to become a continuous improvement. The paradigms, “I've got to do everything and, like, breathe, you're going to be fine.” But, yes.

It's been a fun challenge. As a result, we've had put a lot more detailed early training experiences together to teach so many of those things. We started earlier talking about what's commonsense.

Well, when you start calling these things commonsense, you feel like, “Everybody must know it. It's commonsense.” We don't. It's that counterintuitive piece you mentioned.

We've put a lot more focus in the training, in the coaching piece, to be more structured with it and to really be able to give positive feedback on success.

That's measured by the hands-on. It's great that you take our classes, we love to have you in classes, we love to teach. But if you don't go back to the workplace, or even your home, or do something with it differently, it was waste by our definition. You didn't change, so we don't want you to just sit to request. We want you to go back and see the world a little differently and approach it a little differently. Piece by piece. We've had to do that and grow it from the ground up.

The good thing is, having done it from the ground up, lots of more learning and lots of more mistakes we've had the opportunity to learn from. So good experience we've tucked under our belt.

Mark: You mentioned earlier doing Kaizen at home… Maybe final, final question, I sometimes ask more final question.

Keith: Sure. You're fine. I was enjoying talking to you, Mark. You go on as long as you need, I'm fine.

Mark: Maybe we'll do another podcast, because this has been really great, talking with you and hearing from you.

How often do people take those first baby steps with Kaizen at home, and then come bring some of that experience or enthusiasm back into their work?

Keith: Right now, in COVID environment, a lot of our projects are done at home. But even pre-COVID changes, some of my best, I'll call them prodigies or people that have become really students of continuous improvement, and really own that journey for themselves and stay on that path, once they get on it.

Some of the best ones started at home. One of my favorites, she was a manager in the Renault area, and she came back and she had done her laundry area for her kids. They kept putting the clothes wrong and she just got very frustrated, and she wanted to teach them how to sort, because eventually she'll be on this, “As they get older, maybe you can help to do the laundry, or fold, or something.”

She did this fabulous visuals on how to separate the colors and the whites. She did the instructions up there and she's like, “Oh, my God. My kids enjoy doing laundry now.”

They could help, because they understood their contribution, right? They understood the value add. She brought that back to work and she was on fire. She was like, “We can make this.” She felt empowered, I think it's the word I'm looking for, she felt empowered to be able to make those improvements at work, because she made them at home.

I've had people challenge me and said, “Oh, people have to get support to do this.” I'm like, at certain levels yes, but I have yet to come across the manager that is not OK with you having an organized work space.

Just as a start. I'm not saying that you stop your work day and clean up for eight hours and do nothing at all, that's not what I'm saying. But if you're working in and you're getting more organized as you go, I haven't seen a manager yet that challenges that.

Again, just doing it at home, gives you that feeling you really can do it. Now, I also caution, make sure your family is a little bit involved, because I've also had some, “My spouse shrew me a barb, and we got to really, really work. Kill me, because I throw out their stuff.” Oh no, don't do that. Don't do that, then they're going to blame me.

Mark: Yeah, I don't love that. I didn't learn at home, or worst, learned at home. But there are lessons there. It's one thing to, let's say, rearrange your own dresser drawers versus rearranging somebody else's stuff. That wouldn't be a good idea in the workplace and I'm sure that's not a good idea at home.

Keith: Yeah, I've got a few nasty emails over the years from both at home and at workplace. Get into somebody else's area, I don't do that. Don't do that, be respectful — oh, an opportunity coach — be respectful, it's not yours. “You don't understand, I didn't need it, I wasn't using it.” Yes, because it's not yours, you weren't supposed to be using it.

Mark: Well, that's a great and final reminder around engaging people, working with others. One of the key point, I'm drawing out what you said earlier is — I love your phrase — work readiness. It's not necessarily organization for organization sake, even though that might not be bad if it's self directed.

Keith: Sure.

Mark: But thinking about the purpose and the reason for doing that, even more important.

Keith: Yes, absolutely. It starts there. If your workspace is work ready, then delivering the best possible costumer experience makes so much more sense.

Mark: Yeah.

Keith: If you don't have what you need, you begin to fail right there.

Mark: That's a solvable problem.

Keith: It is.

Mark: Well, our guest today has been Keith Ingles from the Raymond's… You said Raymond Corporation?

Keith: Yes.

Mark: Yes. I thought that's why, was Raymond Corporation. I'll put links in the show notes, preferring to one who's just listening. What's the website? Do you have resources on the website about the Raymond Lean Management approach?

Keith: Yes, it's raymondcorp.com. We have some information out there and we do whitepapers and our marking group does a great job putting things out. By all means, reach out to us and let us know what you are looking at, and certainly reach out to myself or someone in our marking team will try to help you out.

We do a lot of whitepaper resources out there, and we're doing more and more customer-ready training as well. We are getting a lot of our internal training out to make it customer friendly.

We've got some e-learnings and things coming out, some are in process and several are available now. Look forward to helping you on your Lean journey as well.

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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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