We’ve said it many times, "respect for people" is the most critical of the two major pillars of lean manufacturing. Forgetting this is the reason most lean transformations fail, so it’s worth repeating, over and over. A few days ago Toyota reminded us again.
Toyota hasn’t had any layoffs, anywhere in the
world, since the 1950s, and people attending the National Coalition of
Advanced Technology Centers workshop on Friday found out how this was
Hoseus said Toyota plants hire two shifts of workers, scheduled for
five days a week. They are trained not only in the technological
aspects of their jobs, but in the Toyota mindset that stresses mutual
trust between the company and its people.
During full-production periods, when the plant is running 24-7,
employees work incredible amounts of overtime — and during slow times,
they all know they will still get their paychecks.
What happens when the level of work can’t consume the employee’s hours?
Hoseus said during slow times, all employees work on becoming more
efficient, brainstorming ways to out-do their competition (they’ll
bring in competitors cars and tear them apart, looking for ways to
improve their own vehicles), and all become actively involved in
seeking ways to save the company money.
At Toyota, Hoseus said, all ideas for improvement are taken
seriously, whether those ideas come from assembly-line workers,
management or the CEO.
Most companies would send the employees home or even worse, lay them off. Toyota recognizes that people are hired for their brains, not just their hands. Therefore when the manual work goes away, it leaves more time for the brains to swing into action.
The hard part can be finding employees who can think like Toyota.
Finding employees who fit into Toyota’s mindset
has been a problem, Hoseus said, and its nonprofit organization was
developed to overcome those problems by working with the community and
educators to train people to be the kind of employees Toyota wants:
flexible people with a teamwork attitude and problem-solving skills.
Shouldn’t we all want that kind of employee? But once we get them, are we willing to commit to them and use their brains?