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.


Sandee said...

have there been any other homebuilders make an attempt to go lean?

Mike L said...

A lot of other manufactured housing companies are investing in Lean right now (R-Anell, Southern Energy, Chelsea, Clayton, etc.). We all attended the training in Cincinnati together.

Also, Toyota builds homes in Japan. Let's hope they don't take their show on the road anytime soon!

Sean said...

Do you see any chance of Toyota changing their long standing philosophy and entering the American building market through acquistion rather than through a start up of their own?

Mike L said...

That would be interesting for anybody working in the manufactured housing industry, but judging by their past decisions, they would probably build their own organization.