My friend Dave shared a wonderful video with me today that I felt really exemplified Toyota’s concept of “respect for people”, especially in connection with doing something good for the community. The video shows how employees of Toyota’s TSSC team went to work with Food Bank of New York and Metro World Child, creating an initiative called Meals per Hour. Over an 8-week period, they applied several fundamental concepts of lean in order to get more food to more families faster. They worked on identifying and eliminating waste, and creating continuous flow in both the packing and distribution processes.
What I loved most about this story was that there was no discussion of cost. No questions about “what kind of return might I get on this investment of time” or “does this save us any money”. All I heard was that they wanted to try to improve in order to make the job of the volunteers easier, to ensure more families were fed, and to improve the speed at which they provided service to the families. In the end it states they were able to feed 400 additional families in half the time it used to take.
I checked on Toyota’s news release area and found that in addition to improving the process, for every view of the video on YouTube they would donate one meal to the families, up to 250,000. The response was so high that they increased their donation limit an additional 1,000,000 meals – and it looks like as of today they have already surpassed the million views mark.
I noticed another video about Toyota and the TSSC (Toyota Production System Support Center) partnering with the Tree of Life Clinic in Tupelo MS to apply lean concepts to improve conditions for patients and volunteers. The clinic provides free healthcare to those with no insurance, Medicare, or Medicaid. Top problems identified were long waits for patients and long workdays for the volunteers. Patients might have arrived as early as 6:40 in the morning for a clinic that opens at 4:30 pm, to ensure they are seen that day. And volunteers were staying as late as 10:00 at night in order to get as many patients through as possible and to complete all the paperwork.
By applying several tools and lean concepts such as 5S, process flow mapping, standard work, and eliminating waiting waste between doctor/patient interactions, they were able to improve in those top problem areas. The results showed an average decrease of 24 minutes per patient, increasing the number of patients seen in a day from 80 to 90, while reducing the volunteer’s workday by around an hour each day.
On the Meals per Hour website, there are several more small videos and blog entries by authors brought in to document and add awareness to the issues and impacts on community members. I only clicked on one entry so far where Vera Sweeney discusses what she took away from TPS principles – “Change your Thinking and Change Your Life”. She relates a story about a Toyota employee attempting to improve a restaurant’s order accuracy and how she applied a TPS concept or two at home with her family to improve their morning routine.
I think all these stories illustrate and confirm how much waste exists out there in areas where lean thinking is not being applied yet. There are a lot of gains to be made to improve the quality of life for people and communities – both the workers and the customers, no matter what the business or venue. And when you consider how long it takes (in years and decades) to build capability in people to see and eliminate waste themselves on an everyday basis… isn’t it time we got started on that journey?