Monday, November 20, 2006

Article About Toyota's Kentucky Plant

Click on the link below to read a great article on the culture and philosophy that Toyota has instilled in its American workers in Kentucky. Warning: this article is very long. It's also very insightful, so it's well worth the time spent reading it.

How does this apply to homebuilding?

With homebuilding, as with any other form of enterprise, there is a need to constantly tweak and improve your processes. Homebuilders deal with a barrage of problems on a daily basis: weather, material shortages, unreliable labor, change orders, cost increases, governmental bureaucracy, and many, many more. Without a culture that emphasizes continuous improvement, our chances of long-term survival are less than our chances of developing ulcers, pulling our hair out, and going mad.

Friday, November 10, 2006

The Toyota Way & Homebuilding

For those of you that haven't read The Toyota Way by Dr. Jeffrey Liker, I highly recommend it. I and other Lean advocates in my company think so highly of this book that we've decided to make it the center-piece of our management training program. We're going to have one training session for each of the 14 principles of the book. As we cover each of them in class, I'll put a supplementary posting on the blog that relates that principle to homebuilding. Hopefully, our readers and trainees will add their comments and create a discussion.

In his book, Dr. Liker groups the 14 principles into the 4P's:
  1. Philosophy = Make Decisions Based on Long-term Thinking, Even at the Expense of the Short-term
  2. Process = Eliminate Process Waste of All Forms (delays, rework, etc.)
  3. People & Partners = Respect, Challenge, and Grow Them
  4. Problem-Solving = Continuous Improvement and Learning

Looking at it in this broad sense, it is apparent that any company in any industry would benefit from Lean, and this includes homebuilders. All builders need to have a good philosophy that focuses on doing the right things, strong processes that do things right, people & partners that keep the bar raised high, and a culture of relentless problem-solving. It's not always easy to see how some of the technical tools of the Toyota Production System apply to construction, but it's the overall approach to running the enterprise that is the key. Lean leads to flexibility, which for a builder is huge when customers want to customize everything from the floor plan to the toilet seat.