Sunday, June 24, 2007

Toyota Way Fieldbook (Part 1)

I'm reading The Toyota Way Fieldbook. I'm through a few chapters now, and the most interesting concept that I've come across is the "continuous improvement spiral" discussed in chapter 3. Basically, it's a pattern of improvement (described below) that gets repeated over and over again, each time taking you deeper into the spiral (click here for an example of a spiral, have fun). The repeating pattern consists of 4 steps:

1) Stabilize = get the process ready for the intensity of flow by eliminating any process breakdowns (5S is one step towards achieving stability)

2) Create flow = move away from isolated processes to connected/interdependent processes (creating "pull" relationships is one step towards achieving flow)

3) Standardize = document the new process so that it can be improved upon by others, use visuals where possible (not intended to be a how-to-guide for installers)

4) Level incrementally = force the weak link in the process chain to break by "tightening the belt" (increasing production levels, reducing WIP buffers, adding more variety to the product mix, etc.)

Each time you perform step 4, instability will be created (processes will not be able to keep up due to hidden problems) and a new turn into the spiral will be needed. The result of this self-inflicted misery is a Lean process with a lot more capacity and reliability. In future posts, I'll discuss other aspects of the "Lean spiral."

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