Speed and Toyota

Improvement Insights Blog

Speed and Toyota

One of my Quality Cohorts challenged my assertion that Lean is about Speed. He threw Toyota at me as a counterexample. Here’s my thoughts.

“I’m Jay Arthur, author of “Lean Six Sigma Demystified” and QI Macros [software].

“I made a comment on one of the articles about quality, and I said “Lean is about speed.” One of my friends that I know in the Quality universe came back and [responded] “Lean’s not about speed, that’s just wrong.” Then he threw Toyota at me, “But it’s not about speed at Toyota.”

“Toyota is a unicorn, they’ve been at this for 50 or 60 years creating a Quality Improvement culture where things like this happen all the time. You don’t have one of those, right? You’re not going to spontaneously combust into being a Toyota overnight. Lean came from the Toyota production system – that’s what we call it, right? We don’t have to keep talking about Toyota production system but let’s talk about this thing about speed.

“I haven’t looked at the numbers in a long time, but the last time I looked at them it only took Toyota half the time to design a car that it takes Detroit. It only takes Toyota half the time to build a car that it that it takes Detroit, so instead of 40 hours it’s 20 hours or whatever. Toyota’s always looking at ways to save fractions of a second on the assembly line.

“Now I have a clue for you: last time I looked, Toyota made more money every year than the big three Detroit automakers combined, so let’s not pretend that speed ain’t important. That’s not true – speed is everything, especially in a time like now where everybody’s suffering from time famine and decision fatigue. They don’t have time to put up with your slowness, right? Speed is the healing app.

“So that’s my Improvement Insight for this week. Let’s create a hassle free America, hassle free health care. Let’s go out and approve something this week.”

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