By Kevin Meyer
Stewart Anderson penned an article in the latest Quality Digest that took a look at several misconceptions about Toyota. I won't go into all of them, but one in particular did stick out:
Misconception #4: Toyota processes are fully standardized and never degrade.
Standard work is a key component of lean manufacturing, so what does that mean?
While Toyota does believe in and practice creating standardized
processes, they also realize that even a standardized process will
degrade over time. This happens for a variety of reasons—people forget
to follow standardized work, standard operating conditions deteriorate
over time, etc.
So if that's the case, then how do you control it?
Thus, Toyota takes the view that if a process is not improving, then it
is degrading; there is no in-between state that can be indefinitely
maintained, even with standardization in place. Because all processes
will degrade, Toyota always insists on moving toward the next target
condition once a previously-set target condition has been achieved and
the new condition stabilized.
Toyota managers will always restandardize a process after every
improvement, but they will not be content to rest there, since they
know the new condition will deteriorate unless daily improvements are
If it's not improving, it's degrading. Period.
Sort of makes you wonder about those factories that became "lights out" operations filled with robots. Since robots can't really dream up improvements, what will happen?