I began re-reading today the classic book Toyota Production System: Beyond Large-Scale Production by Taiichi Ohno. As I was perusing Ohno’s Preface I came across a series of quotes that I found useful.
“The most important objective of the Toyota system has been to increase production efficiency by consistently and thoroughly eliminating waste. This concept and the equally important respect for humanity…are the foundation of the Toyota production system”
It is interesting that on the first page of the Preface of the book published by Norman Bodek and company over at Productivity Press in 1988, there is mention of the equal importance of waste elimination and respect for humanity.
I work at a company that is going through a bit of Lean conversion in the manufacturing groups. We teach an Introduction to Lean class to everyone (In fact, I’ll be teaching a session tonight). In that training we do not emphasize the point that waste elimination and respect for humanity are equally important even though one of the icons of Lean and one of the co-creators of the Toyota Production System mentions how important this concept is in the 3rd paragraph of his book. This book, by the way, was published in English over 20 years ago and in Japanese over 30 years ago.
By the 5th paragraph of the book Ohno made the following statement:
“We are now unable to sell our products unless we think ourselves into the very hearts of our customers, each of whom has different concepts and tastes. Today, the industrial world has been forced to master in earnest the multi-kind, small-quantity production system.”
These are words of wisdom written in the 70’s but even more applicable today. How many of the problems we are experiencing today could have been mitigated by reducing the vast inventory of products built in mass and carried over worldwide supply chains. We simply need to get into the hearts of the customer and “make each item one at a time.” (Paragraph 7)
In the same way that each customer needs us to enter their hearts to provide them true value one at a time, we should seek to enter the hearts of the learners we are mentoring in Lean and provide them guidance one at a time. Tonight I’m going to make it a point to focus on the respect for humanity pillar of Lean in equal proportions as the continuous improvement pillar. What are you going to do?