Students in Fisher’s Master of Business Operational Excellence cohort are back on campus for their second week together in the year-long program. Senior lecturer Mrinalini Gadkari is on the scene for daily recaps.

Short question, long answer: How did Toyota become lean?

As MBOE coach David Hoyte told students in a recent session, the automaker organizes all jobs around human motion and creates an efficient sequence with lowest possible waste. If that’s the philosophy, guess how your employees will start thinking and working? They note time they spend walking around, looking for things, bending or lifting when it isn’t necessary. They take more care in detecting errors and preventing them. They come up with a sequence that makes more sense of the process.

If your organization’s philosophy is cost reduction, you run the risk of employees seeking low-cost suppliers and abandoning quality. Instead of focusing on reducing waste in the process, individual productivity is under the microscope and blame reigns supreme.  

In most organizations people are used to doing work at their own pace with undocumented methods. Some work slowly and others work faster. Some have figured out the fastest method but they hide it from others. This makes the process variable and unpredictable. 

Work Flow

Toyota bases its work flow on a philosophy of waste reduction. Image courtesy MotorTrend.com

Take note of these three elements to achieve standard work:

  • Employees must know the pace at which they are supposed to produce/do work (the Takt time)
  • Employees are trained to follow a standard sequence and method such that everyone follows the same steps and sequence in the process
  • Have only just enough supplies when and where they are needed to produce/do work (work in process)

Quite simply, it’s a better use of employees’ time and talent if they spend it doing more value-added work rather than wasting their time in wandering or waiting.

Discuss: Do you see variation in how your employees do work?   How do you apply standardization to your work processes? What are some of the challenges and wins?



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