By Jon Miller | Post Date: May 2, 2009 11:54 AM | Comments: 3
If I had a dollar bill for every time someone said to me "This is not Japan" or "We don't build automobiles" or "We don't make the same thing over and over again like Toyota" then I would have a lot of dollar bills. What people are objecting to in these remarks is not the overall idea of the Toyota Production System or its details but rather a protest that the characteristics and context of their business is different if not unique, and does not easily lend itself to the application of a lean system. Those of us who make a living helping people build Toyota-like operating systems tend to dismiss these charges, but they are valid. The lean system is not about copying Toyota as closely as possible; it is about making the most of what you've got.
So the question becomes "what have we got?" This is a very broad question but we can learn how to answer it by reflecting on the characteristics and conditions that faced Toyota when they were building their world class production system. In The Birth of Lean, chapter IV, from the paper Toyota production system and Kanban system - materialization of just-in-time and respect-for-human system by Y. Sugimori, K. Kusunoki, F. Cho and S. Uchikawa, the authors share eleven characteristics of "what Toyota had", namely the context for the development of the Toyota Production System.
1) The most distinctive feature of Japan is its lack of natural resources
People and society
2) Group consciousness, desire to improve, diligence
5) Lifetime employment system
The automotive industry and its challenges
9) Mass production, with small losses having a large overall effect
Taken as a whole, these 11 characteristics made the environment in which Toyota and its famous production system rather unique. But no single one of these characteristics are unique. Our ability to change the natural environment, industry and the people and society are limited. Corporate customs may not be totally within the control of the management. In some cases we may be much better off than Toyota was 50 years ago when they started developing their system. Like anything worth doing, the lean system requires making the most of what we've got.Comments are moderated to filter spam and inappropriate content. There may be a delay before your comment is published.