Wednesday, September 18, 2013

What is real Kaizen?

My home prefecture is Aichi, Japan, where there is a headquarters of Toyota and factories of Toyota are dotted. Toyota is spotted to me because my relatives work at subsidiaries of Toyota. From Toyota Production System written by Ohno Taiichi [1], I understood the concept of Kaizen that reduces seven wastes, but I did not see an example of Kaizen. So I would like to show what Toyota does Kaizen by using the real Kaizen case [2].

Source (Tsuchiya, 1999)

The author of the Kaizen case is freshman Ritsuko who is in charge of assembling HiAce, a full size van, in Toyota Body, a subsidiary company of Toyota. Ritsuko had the trouble that she could not give her seat to an old person in a commuter train because she had shoulder stiff and could not grab a strap after her work. Her trouble is the issue to do Kaizen.

Although I guessed that an issue of Kaizen is not to produce defective products and improve the rate of operation, the issue of her case is totally different. She started to consider the issue from her personal point of view. As Ohno said that respect for man's life and dignity is the purpose of eliminating the wastes, this Toyota culture seems to prevail among workers.

In the factory, Ritsuko attached a rubber seal into a window frame of side doors. She had difficulty to attach it well. So Ritsuko had some defective product though others did not make defective the attachment. The team measured her grip every hour and her pushing load to a window frame to investigate the cause of her shoulder stiff.

Source (Tsuchiya, 1999)

The team frankly focused on the human issue, her shoulder stiff. Since others did not make any defective product, I think that it is reasonable that the cause is an individual ability. However, the team never considered so. Finally, the team invented the special tool. Then, Ritsuko never made any defective product. Since her shoulder stiff, of course, disappeared, she can give her seat to an old person in a commuter train.

Source (Tsuchiya, 1999)

When I saw the actual case of Kaizen, I think that worker’s considering is one of the sources of Toyota’s advantage. That is because a white-collar worker cannot find the issue. What company’s manager seriously deals with the issue when a worker says “My shoulders are stiff”?

[1] Ohno, T. (1988). Toyota production system. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press.
[2] Tsuchiya, R. (1999, December). Case of Kaizen, volume 5. Retrieved from

1 comment:

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