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Recently I was in a Minerals Technologies mine where they dig minerals and process them to customer specifications. While Mineral Technologies does not make cars, this company is successfully using the principles of the Toyota Production System (TPS) and Lean Manufacturing to enhance its competitive and profit positions.
While some people see only differences, those committed to continuous learning see commonalities. Learners then adjust what they have gained to benefit the anomalies that make them unique.
Aera Energy, an oil and gas producer based in California, is leveraging TPS philosophy and tools. So is Cleveland Clinic, the top-ranked heart hospital in the United States, and Virginia Mason hospital in Seattle. So is Midwest Industrial Supply, an environmentally safe solutions chemical company in Canton, Ohio. So is MillerCoors, the beer producer. So is Lashbrook Designs, a jewelry design and manufacturing company located in Salt Lake City, Utah.
These are very different production environments and customer requirements, yet all are finding TPS instrumental to success.
Use the wheel
TPS is not the answer to everything, but the answer is out there. As TRIZ methodology teaches us, problems, solutions, patterns of technical innovation and specific scientific innovations are repeated and applied across industries. It’s silly not to learn from the experience of others.
The wheel has been invented. Don’t reject that information just because it occurred in a different time, led by a different scientist.
Leaders seek first to understand, not to reject. I have yet to visit a place where I couldn’t learn, if only how not to do something. Look first for parallels, only then for exceptions.
Diners at Chipotle can notice the Kanban system they use to keep the line filled, but also observe the absence of signals in maintaining supplies in the dining area. At McDonald’s, it’s easy to observe the postponement strategy in their sandwich assembly process. It may not improve the taste, but you can see how they have mixed speed and actual customer orders.
An experienced waitress rarely makes an empty-handed trip across the restaurant. Contemplate the elimination of wasted resources from empty backhaul of delivery mechanisms and of workers.
One Cleveland restaurant known for its strong lunch business uses the honor system during those hours. No checks. When you’re ready to leave, stop by the bar, tell them what you had, and pay. The owner is absolutely positive that underreported meals are rare, and much more than offset by customers who know they never have to wait for a check.
Business as it has always been done it is not the only way, nor even the best way. There is much to gain by observing surroundings and pondering the possibilities.