The one thing I do love about January however, is the sense of renewal. It’s the one time when many of us are united in life-planning, goals for next year and how to make small improvements to our lifestyles. This reminds me of Toyota and some things I learned working as a lean/change consultant. Yes Toyota are a little pre-occupied with defects right now but let’s take a moment to recognise what Toyota achieved and how.
In a nutshell Sakichi Toyoda the founder of Toyota led a team to Ford USA after WW2 as the Americans apparently knew everything about manufacturing cars. Toyoda was unimpressed. So the Japanese set about developing their own system inspired by an automatic drinks machine. In 2007 Toyota became the largest car manufacturer in the world and as profitable as the others put together. So how did they get there and what can we learn for making progress in our own lives?
The ‘Toyota Way’ was a philosophy based on Continuous Improvement (Kaizen) and Respect for People. Here are some of the tools, not so you build cars in your kitchen, but maybe there is some learning to apply:
In a drive (excuse the pun) for ultimate efficiency, Toyota describe 7 types of waste (muda) that we should strive to eliminate, including unnecessary transport or conveyance, excess inventory and defects. Eliminating waste is about maximising profit for Toyota, but what about the benefits if we apply this to our own lives?
Here’s an example: I spend about four minutes per day looking for keys and, particularly when my wife is involved have about ten potential hiding places. If everyone agrees to put the keys in the same place EVERY time, we would each save 1456 minutes per year – just over a day each. What would you do with an extra day? I’m always complaining that time is the enemy; eliminating Waste across other daily processes could create the time we so desperately need. The other benefit is the drudgery of these tasks; I hate hunting for keys.
What might focus the mind even more is the number of hours wasted watching soaps. If you watch an average of 4 hours of pointless tv every week, you waste 8.7 days per year; I have much better plans for 8.7 days. That’s a holiday!
This is best described in domestic terms as the ultimate spring clean on steroids. Apply the 5s to your domestic processes to eliminate waste, remove drudgery and your improved efficiency will help create the time and head space for important things. The Japanese words are shown in brackets:
1. Sorting (Seiri)
Eliminate all unnecessary stuff. Keep only essential items and eliminate what is not required, prioritising things and keeping them in easily-accessible places. Everything else is stored or discarded.
2. Straightening or setting in order/stabilise (Seiton)
There should be a place for everything and everything should be in its place. Items should be arranged in a manner that promotes efficient work flow, with equipment used most often being the most easily accessible.
3. Sweeping or shining or cleanliness/systematic cleaning (Seiso)
Clean the space and all equipment, and keep it clean, tidy and organised. At the end of each day, clean the used areas and be sure everything is restored to its place. Maintaining cleanliness should be part of the daily work – not an occasional activity initiated when things get too messy.
4. Standardising (Seiketsu)
Practices should be consistent and standardised. Everyone should know exactly what his or her responsibilities are for adhering to the first 3 S’s.
5. Sustaining the discipline or self-discipline (Shitsuke)
Clearly the best word. Maintain and review standards. Maintain focus on the new way and do not allow a gradual decline back to the old ways. While thinking about the new way, also be thinking about yet better ways.
I’d be interested to hear your Toyota approaches to domestic efficiency. Please send details!