Ergonomics done right.®
April 9th, 2008

Another secret of TPS

In a recent post by Jon Miller on Gemba Panat Rei (The secret of TPS) he closes with:

Shhh_5  "Toyota has succeeded in building an organization that consistently develops people who strive to make things better by making people better. This is best done bit by bit, day by day, through practice and reflection on how we can better serve others. We will not get the secret of TPS out by tying it to a chair and beating it with a hose. We need to walk inside it and purposefully explore with all of our senses"

Interestingly, many who try to make lasting change (in the way that they work) do not spend enough time developing people. Often, they rely on training sessions for leaders who are then charged with rolling out that message to the shop floor. The key in any change effort is the requirement of a sustained effort of education, coaching, reinforcement, and most importantly "jissen" or practical application.

Taking a 30-Inch view of the workplace involves integrating education for different populations. No matter the environment, what people need are tools for fulfill their piece of the puzzle with resources (time, materials and equipment) that they have at their disposal.

For instance, in training workplace improvement through ergonomics, it is essential that:

  • Employees are trained to identify hazards when using a tool or method (i.e. low material height)
  • They are empowered to fix them at the start of their shift (i.e. stack extra pallets underneath or adjust the lift table)
  • When the workplace can’t be fixed, they have a common language to communicate the issue to a supervisor
  • In turn, the team leader has the tools to fix that enviroment in 7 days
  • Again, if this can’t be done, there is an accepted practice to raise that issue to the next level
  • And so on, and so on.

In fact, training employees, managers, subject matter experts, engineers and leaders is only part of the equation. Cementing the learning requires working together to apply their new-found knowledge. This means experiencing the problems that occur on the shop floor, learning from each other, and gaining an understanding of the knowledge resorces that individuals have to apply to the problem.

Kaizen  events (we call them RAPID Team Events) are a great way for this to occur. Not only do these events result in immediate changes (or action plans) to improve a workstation, cell or area – the events themselves become learning experiences for participants.

Is your approach to TPS driven in this participative way or do you use the trickle down method of training from the top?

photo credit: Katie Tegtmeyer