Lean and kaizen are not meant to eliminate people — they’re meant for improvement

Ever dream about reaching an efficiency of 95%?!  Think that is a crazy goal for your company?  It’s not!  That is what lean and kaizen help you achieve. It can also help you get rid of employees. Well, that’s how an article in  Business Today titled “How Toyota Uses Kaizen for Efficiency”  would have you think. The article reports the following:

Toyota benchmarks itself on efficiency. It trains recruits in ‘muscle memory’, so that their hands work with unfailing precision. For instance, a new recruit graduates to the next level of training only after he masters the art of picking up exactly five pairs of nuts and bolts from a box.

The result: an Etios, Etios Liva or Corolla rolls off the assembly line in Toyota’s Plant No. 2 in Bidadi, Karnataka, every 119 seconds, and an Innova or Fortuner in Plant No. 1 every 162 seconds. In 16.5 hours of operation in a day, the two plants produce a total of 744 vehicles.

“Both our Bidadi plants have reached an efficiency of 95 per cent, which is the highest level,” says Hiroshi Nakagawa, Managing Director of Toyota Kirloskar Motor.

Pretty impressive, right?  Toyota strives for more.  This is where kaizen comes into play – Toyota eliminates workers and works to get the same output:

After a plant reaches peak efficiency, the management reduces the number of workers slightly, so that the efficiency ratio falls. Then it introduces kaizen (continuous improvement) to return to the earlier level.

arrowRelated Topics: Learn More About Kaizen

I’m not necessarily for using kaizen and lean methods in order to reduce the amount of workers–but so it can improve efficiency and reduce waste with the amount of people you have. If they absolutely don’t need those people for ANYTHING else, then I can see some layoffs, but I don’t think that is what they should have commented on in the article, because it portrays these systems as “people cost-cutting” measures–and if they think that workers don’t read this stuff, too, they’re fooling themselves!  This is one more irresponsible article that goes for the keywords, and not for projecting a positive angle on lean and kaizen, IMHO.


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