Toyotathon of Death?

February 3, 2010

I’ve been thinking about the Toyota recall lately (I drive one, but it wasn’t affected by the floor mat or gas pedal recall). Of course, I do not know all the information or what happened behind the scenes at Toyota. But what I did notice was something that you probably have heard about how Toyota operates and now you can see it in practice. I heard the phrase “Think slow and act fast” referring to how Toyota addresses situations.

Just think what they were up against. You make the decision to recall all of the cars affected (over 2 million). Now you have to have a plan to fix these cars. And yes, we need the parts to do this. We have to contact the owners. We have to prepare the dealers for the influx of repairs. In the meantime, we will shutdown production. And stop selling those models ofor now. How will this affect our dealers? Our employees? Our customers? Our market share? And on and on and on… Yes there seems to be a lot to think about. And now they have to act.

Time will tell how this will affect Toyota overall. I personally think that they will come out of this stronger than before. They will most likely loose some market share in the meantime. This reminds me of the 1982 Tylenol recall when the decision was made to remove the entire product from the shelves. This was costly, but it was the right thing to do and made the company stronger in the long run. “Tylenol made a hero of Johnson & Johnson.”

Some people will try to use this as an excuse to not pursue Lean. They’re missing the point. This mistake (and it’s a big one) does not mean to scrap your Lean initiatives. It’s a reminder that quality is an essential part of Lean.

For fun, you can watch a clip from The Daily Show with Jon Stewart on the Toyotathon of Death To watch on hulu.com (starts at 1:25) go to:  

To watch video>>The Daily Show  with Jon Stewart –  Toyotathon of Death

You have probably heard the phrase it takes 21 days to break an old habit and 21 days to create a new one. In that spirit, I will be running a series of blog posts over the next five weeks that suggest five things you can do each week to help improve your 5S thinking and actions. These will be little things that you can easily do each week to improve your 5S efforts. Think of this as “Little up, everyday” or practicing kaizen (Japanese for continuous improvement). All told, this should probably take only 5-15 minutes a day. So for only less than an hour a week you can get directly involved in 5S in your work area.

Week 1

  1. Let’s start off easy. Write down one thing that you would like to accomplish this week regarding 5S. Try to make it something that won’t take too much time, but will still have an impact on your 5S program.
  2. Do a search for information related to 5S. Try to find articles, tips & tricks, or whitepapers that you think might help your 5S program. We’ll use these later in our program.
  3. Wipe down your work area and do a quick inspection to see if anything needs fixing, may become broken (if not attended to) or is a safety issue. If you can fix it yourself, great; if not, notify the appropriate person or group.
  4. Declare a “Red Tag Day” – make the commitment to find at least five items that don’t belong in your immediate work area, red tag them and move to your 5S Red Tag Holding Area.
  5. If you haven’t already, work on that one thing that you wrote down in #1 above. If you have already completed that item, then take a break – you deserve it! Hey, I said we would start off easy. We’ll get to more challenging things later.

I understand that you might not be able to accomplish all these things the first time you try it. Do what you can. If you follow this or something like it, you are starting to apply standardize and sustain to your 5S program.

Let’s keep track of our progress and we’ll see how we do week-to-week.

Good luck and thanks – Tony

You can sign up on twitter at twitter.com/5Ssupply and I’ll send you short reminders each week to help you stay on track.