Lean or the Toyota Production System often gets an unfair rap for being “anti-technology.” Some of this mindset is the result of the old debate between using MRP computer systems to plan production or the more visual Lean methods of kanban cards and heijunka boxes. Even Toyota uses MRP systems, but they used them in their proper role -- long-term planning instead of day-to-day execution.
Toyota uses a lot of technology, even though their factories tend to be slightly LESS automated than those of American or European automakers. Principle #8 of “The Toyota Way” philosophy spells out their view:
“Use only reliable, thoroughly-tested technology that serves your people and process.”
Toyota doesn’t expect technology to be a silver bullet (neither do we at KaiNexus). A Lean thinker would say not to automate a bad process - for example, you shouldn’t implement an “electronic suggestion box” that just digitizes or automates an old busted model -- we need Kaizen practices and mindsets… and technology (like ours) can support people and their improvement process, as our customers demonstrate daily.
But, okay, what about Toyota Memorial Hospital? I had always heard (second hand) that this Japanese hospital, right in Toyota City, hadn’t really done much with TPS methods, even though they serve Toyota employees and are right in the backyard of Toyota’s headquarters. I’ve visited some other Japanese hospitals over the past few years and there’s more evidence of sustained Total Quality Management (TQM) practices than there is Lean. There’s some dabbling with Lean tools and methods… but it goes to show not all Japanese organizations are magically Lean.
My friend and fellow blogger Katie Anderson had a chance to actually visit the gemba at Toyota Memorial Hospital. See her blog post that’s part of her series: Japan Gemba Visit: Toyota Memorial Hospital – Part 4: Set challenging goals & engage patients and staff in continuous improvement.
In the post, she talks about how TMH practices Kaizen.
She writes, in part:
“The hospital’s kaizen template includes a title, the suggested improvement, and a description of what the process looks like after the suggestion was implemented. Kaizen ideas are submitted and shared electronically through the intranet system.
Mr. Sumiya explained that between 600-700 kaizen ideas are submitted and implemented each year, and about 30% of the hospital’s staff put in kaizen ideas each year."
Yes, they use an electronic system. Some hospitals have created homegrown systems, but more are realizing it’s better, faster, and less expensive to use a standard system like KaiNexus.
Listen to this post as part of our podcast series:
As Katie writes, the hospital helps people take advantage of slow times to do Kaizen. Leaders and managers play an active role:
“A manager’s job is to make sure that “it’s easy enough” for people to submit kaizen ideas and to make the improvements. The manager 'should be passionate about the ideas' that their staff bring forward.”
I hope the hospital sees that 30% participation is great… but it’s a good start. Leaders in a culture of continuous improvement strive to get everybody involved in improvement. KaiNexus customers, by the way, can see ready-made reports that show participation rates at a global and local level in the organization, along with trends over time. Seeing where people are participating more (or not participating more) helps leaders and coaches decide where to go to give help, support, and inspiration for improvement.
It’s great to see TMH embracing and using Lean principles… along with hospitals all around the world. Thanks to TMH and Katie Anderson for sharing their progress!
For more information on the decision to buy or build continuous improvement software, check out this free eBook: