Lean Trip to Toyota

Toyota - the most obvious and best known practitioner of lean. Just say Lean and people who are schooled in the subject automatically think of Toyota. I mean, they (Taiichi Ohno) developed the idea of lean which they dubbed TPS (the Toyota Production System). Toyota also recognized that perfection is hard to come by but you should run your business in a state of continuous improvement trying to achieve that perfection. I have to say that after all the hype of Toyota - reading the literature, hearing the stories, reading Ohno's biography, etc., I was very excited to venture to the plant that makes the Corolla, Matrix, and the Lexus RX350.

On 01/11/07, twenty-five employees from Burlington Operations boarded a bus to visit this often spoke of company. Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada (TMMC) is the only Toyota manufacturer in Canada (until the completion of the Toyota in Woodstock, Ontario).

When you arrive at Toyota, you are stopped by security until a tour coordinator comes aboard the bus and makes sure that your list of attendees are actually who they say they are. After ensuring that everyone meant to be there is, you are welcomed with what seems like open arms. The staff welcomes you and specifies that you are able to take a walk around their lobby (which houses different models of cars that are made their - including the 1st Corolla that came off the TMMC line, MANY awards and a great mural on the wall depicting the monstrosity that is TMMC). TMMC sits on 400 acres and is 3.01 million square feet. That's why i used such a word as MONSTROSITY!!

After a brief look around the lobby and perhaps a quick bathroom break, we were invited into what seemed to be a training facility. We were welcomed by a brief video outlining how they produce, the core principles on how they run their business (continuous improvement and team work) and what it is like to work at Toyota.

We were given safety glasses, our clothing was checked for flammability and finally we were allowed to enter the manufacturing portion of TMMC. Just like Burlington Operations, safety is very important at Toyota - and they do not take it lightly - before the tour they provided me with a very detailed listing of what you can and can't wear, what you can and can't bring with you, etc. We boarded the tram.

Let's just say that i had an "awe-inspiring" moment when we entered the facility. It was big. Very big. There were so many visuals that my sensory system went into overload and i didn't know where i should look - i tried to take it all in. I tried my hardest, however i do have to admit that i was very taken back by the whole place that it was very difficult to concentrate on what our tour coordinator was saying.

TMMC was everything - actually more than i had expected. Everything is visual. I mean everything. You can tell in one quick glance at overhead boards what your production rate is and if there is going to be a need for overtime (and how much) at any given moment. During our tour, they needed 30mins of overtime to complete that days production. It was incredible.

To be honest, i could go on and on - and TMMC definitely inspired my creative juices to begin flowing again. I would recommend that anyone who is on this journey that we call lean go to Toyota; book a tour. You won't be disappointed.


Note: This event was done in July of 2006. I just wanted to share an update: Since the event, the stores department has seen and undergone many changes. The "cage" is now organzied by pump type making it easier and quicker to pick the pieces for pump assembly. We also reduced the size of stores, which gave us more space to have a dedicated Service Area to better serve our customers. And new to the plant, is the idea that no pump should start being built until ALL the components are here - so stores has made a decision not to release partial pump kits into assembly - instead it only leaves stores once it is complete. This seemingly simple exercise gets rid of some of the wastes found in assembly (excess inventory, motion, transportation, overproduction, etc.) Stores continues to be one of the fastest movers in our plant (in terms of lean improvements). This team as well as all the stores employees are developing new and better ideas every single day - i will continue to update on their progress.

  • To create kits for specific pumps in stores for assembly to pull
  • A need to create a pull from assembly
  • A need to locate where those kits will be held before and after the pull (both in stores and in assembly)


  • Training in Takt, Flow and Pull
  • Placemats created for specific pump kits – poke yoke
  • Named the carts
  • Identified and red tagged old inventory
  • Created a new cell layout for the cage and staging area to promote flow
  • Established a method to refuse incomplete orders


  • Purchase orders from our vendors that come early, are just as bad as those that come late.
  • Old inventory that is obsolete should be removed
  • Setting min/max levels on all stock items in inventory is an easy way to identify if we need more/less.


  • Identified and red tagged old inventory (top offenders include impellers, casings, rings, cover, motors, etc.)
  • Created a method to promote pull from assembly, as well as flow within the stores department.
  • Red tagged $$$$ of obsolete inventory
  • Mapped the process flow for the carts, and created a new layout for the areas in stores (removing much waste due to transportation).The new cage layout will remove the ‘grocery store-like’ picking of parts


  • The new layout of stores will be visual, having a section for power pump parts, horizontal pump parts, vertical pump parts as well as common pump parts
  • Placemats will ensure that all parts necessary are on the kit cart, and will draw immediate attention for those parts that are missing.
  • New staging area has specific locations for those kits that are complete that can be pulled from assembly.


  • Learning from a sensei was a great experience!
  • We should have cross-functional teams, as well as have members who know the most about the area
  • This will make stores’ and assembly’s life a little more easier to manage
  • Making our problems visible is not a negative thing – it’s the only way to highlight problems and come up with ways to fix them.
  • I can’t believe we have that much old inventory!

Developing a New Program - the Quick Ship Program

Note: This event and team have contributed to an increase in sales among the VCM type of pumps. It was a huge mentality shift, as well as huge undertaking, but Team Hotaru kept going until it was complete. Recently, the Quick Ship program began its life at our plant - we look forward to better serving our customers with the adition of this program.

  • To create a quick response team and process dedicated to the engineering and purchasing of parts for small (simple) pumps – VCM, VLK
  • To create takt, flow and pull in the team and in the area
  • To determine the items that need to be stocked in inventory to assist the program


  • Training in Takt, Flow and Pull
  • Created a team dedicated to the quick response ideal
  • Process flow chart (current and future state) documented
  • Brainstormed ideas as to how to implement the new program
  • Created a VCM “Quick Ship” program
  • Developed relationship with motor vendor
  • Created 3 layouts, with pros and cons, to help determine new layout for engineering and the co-location of instrumental departments (purchasing and documentation – within engineering – see layout design below)


  • Customers do not like long lead times; and would be willing to pay for a product that is quicker and of superior quality
  • Even engineering needs to adopt the lean ideals of takt, flow and pull


  • A documented and executed reduction in lead time from 17 weeks to 6-8 weeks.
  • Process improvement times:
  • 44% time savings
  • 65% reduction in throughput in engineering
  • Average savings per VCM order: $$$$
  • Approximate increased sales earnings: BIG BUCKS!!


  • Created a standard data package for quick ship pumps
  • Created criteria for the VCM quick ship program (which includes size, material type, paint, testing, motor, seal, etc.)


  • We need to shorten our lead times in order to be competitive in the market
  • You may need to burn a few boats to get where you need to be – create a sense of urgency
  • Never say impossible
  • Learning from a sensei was a great experience!

Burlington Document Control goes Kaizen Crazy

Note: This Kaizen activity was done in 3 days with only 4 people. It was a grueling 3 days however the progress that was made really inspired me. The hardwork and dedication of this team was incredible.


  • To document entire process
  • To capture what the document controllers were/are responsible for
    To create work instructions to help ease new document controller into position
    To create an area for data booking
  • To reduce current backlog and ensure current data books are to the customer on time


  • Process mapped entire process, including active data (expediting final certified documents, expediting documents for approval, transmittals, document returns and data booking)
  • Created comprehensive work instructions for the processes mentioned above, as well as those which pertain to the processes
  • Trained in standard work
  • Created a knowledge/training matrix for main processes
  • Created a specific area to allow for POU conditions (new layout)/5S area
  • Created kanban system for the ordering of supplies (min/max stock levels)
  • Created a pull system for the copying of data booksCreated library for engineer books
  • Setting goals at the beginning of kaizen helps to accomplish them
  • Kaizen brings out problems that were hidden/only known by those that are directly affected by them.
  • Process maps shows the differences of how 1 controller differs from anotherStandardization/work instructions are important for training as well as for quality
  • Comprehensive work instructions
  • Team building
  • New layout in engineering to accommodate “copy centre” and library
  • Kanban cards created/stock levels determined
  • Eliminated 2 processes (cutting down active data time by 25%)Reduced data booking time/active data time by introducing mandatory A01 for every order.
  • Folders in ‘copy centre’ for all outside documentation
  • Kanban cards for reorder point for all supplies
  • Pull system for ‘copy centre’ queue – by team colour
  • Issue board/chart for outstanding materials required by document control (to be viewed during weekly Gemba walk)
  • “Work instructions provide an in-depth look at ‘document controllers’ jobs”
  • “There will always be some resistance to change – feel good that Kaizen is the right thing to do”
  • “In only 3 days, we knocked down ~25% cycle time and created a new space for us to do our work in – what a team effort!”


Shingijutsu finds a place in Burlington's Hearts

Burlington - Our First Shingijutsu event

In November of 2005, the Burlington Plant held a Shingijutsu event with the goals of reducing set-up time in the Test Area by 80%, as well as improving the lead time in Assembly by 25%. The teams involved were very eager to learn, and to meet each of the teams’ respective goals.

The Test Teams’ efforts resulted in a set-up time reduction of 52% (down from 1H33mins – 48 mins), as well as a reduction in travel time by 50%. Tools were labeled, and placed strategically at the Point of Use. They also created a highly visible area to show pumps that were ready for test, holding for test, as well as those that had passed test.The team labeled each test deck, to ensure high visibility as to show which pumps were to be tested where.

The Assembly Team also saw some drastic improvements. The assembly time was reduced by 190mins/per pump by having the deck supplier pre-drill the holes before delivery. In order to improve quality, 5S and floor efficiency, the team developed a special purpose cart designed to carry all components in modules required for one pump assembly. 5S was a big challenge for this group, and through brainstorming they were able to come up with several great ideas to help locate items through the shop. For example, the team made and implemented a visual control board that is updated as pumps go through their various stages, created a plant floor identification system to easily locate parts and created a tool identification process that would allow a person searching for a tool to know whom has it and is using it.

Looking forward into 2006; it plans to be an exciting, yet challenging time for Burlington. We recently completed a BAP II, which allowed us to identify areas where improvements can and should be made. We all look forward to continuously improving together, as a team.

Value Stream Mappin' in Engineering

Note: This was the longest event that i have run to date. The team met for approximately 3 weeks in 1 month - after work, before work, etc.) because everyone understands the importance of breaking down our bottleneck process into something more managable and with less of a lead time. We went through arguments, good times, bad times - it was a struggle - but in the end Lean and our people's minds prevailed.


  • There is a long lead time in engineering which needs understanding
  • To implement takt, flow and pull
  • To understand the process of engineering
  • To develop 30/60/90 day action plan


  • Created a SIPOC diagram depicting the scope of the engineering process
  • Developed a Swim Lane diagram to show the many handoffs between the players
  • Current state mapped the engineering process, calculated takt
  • Differentiated between value-add and non-value added processes
  • Constructed a 90 day future state map and a 30/60/90 day action plan


  • It is worth shutting down Engineering for 6hrs in a day to focus and keep focus on the current and future state.
  • Team buy in is key to successful implementation of lean changes.
  • 30/60/90 days actions must be concise and measurable.
  • Defining value added and non value added work within Engineering environment must be done carefully as people do not really grasp the idea.


  • Developed a 30/60/90 day action plan• Reduced the process from a 20-step to a 16-step
  • Potential cycle-time reduction of 8hrs
  • Reduced WIP in the system from unlimited to less than 5 pieces of work per engineer, thus reducing the queue time by approximately 50% (will be revisited in approximately 1 month to document the reduction in lead time)
  • Reduction in lead time is expected, however not verified yet
  • Training on the various tools used, with special focus on takt, flow and pull


  • WIP boards were created which show what job is on who’s desk and at what stepof the process with one glance; work priorities are set during each team’s shift start meeting
  • KPI boards for each team within engineering – with metrics that make sense to the teams – will begin measuring utilization
  • A prototype pull system to be implemented 12/06/06


  • Value stream map was an eye opener for the team. Looking at number of steps, work checking, number of defects and inventories at each desk were invisible in the past.
  • Future state discussions led to focused attention on areas of concerns and requiring immediate improvement.

Introducing Takt, Flow & Pull into Assembly

Note: we held this event in July of 2006 - It was my first event as the certified Lean Champion for our site. It was definitely grueling running 3 events concurrently, however i do have to admit that: 1. We had great team members who were energized to get started and make some big changes and 2. We had the opportunity to work with a great leader from Japan who knows lean like I've never seen and who has such amazing spirit it's hard not to contract it.


  • To introduce takt, flow & pull in assembly
  • To create/install assembly streams to promote takt, flow and pull for the assembling of pumps
  • To make the separate streams cross-functional (where possible) as to keep up with ever changing customer demand


  • Training in Takt, Flow and Pull
  • Process mapping of the current state of “flow” through assembly
  • Defining and setting new boundaries (yellow walk lines) throughout assembly promoting flow as well as, and more importantly, safety.
  • Setup 5 assembly cells: four of the cells are located within an area that 4 operators can communicate without leaving the area (the 5th is an M Pump assembly cell)
  • Created a QUICK SHIP cell with one table to assist in our new VCM quick ship program
  • Created an Andon lighting system to highlight when there are problems
  • Developed base TAKT times for assembly/Test/Clean/Paint/Final assembly.
  • Developed cell boards to help communicate TAKT time
  • A test run which illustrated that we can meet the TAKT times and have designated skilled assembler times (80%) and assembly times for assemblers with less product familiarization (100%)

  • Team work, team work, team work!!
  • Safety NEVER takes a back door in Burlington!Make a prototype first and once proven to work, then make your investment
  • Make a prototype first and once proven to work, then make your investment


  • At the new 80% TAKT time and (#) VCMs per year the cost savings will be big bucks
  • Created a more centralized assembly area reducing the area from 1350sqft to 1240sqft – 110sqft of real estate that Burlington can use for something else
  • Increased capacity by adding 2 more tables and improved shop space utilization
  • Developed pull signal to tell stores when to release another kit, and designated a place to park those kits.


  • Created Andon lighting for assembly with a functional visual control board for pump information including TAKT times
  • Put arrows on the floor to show the FLOW through the shop, as well as labelled all cellsDefined and set walkway line through shop to promote FLOW, as well as safety.


  • You can get a lot done in only 1 week if you pull together as a team!
  • Integration between each team and department is very integral to the success of our activities.
  • Good communication between all departments is essential if we want to build more safely, with greater quality and shorter lead times.

Want to see some pictures? Let me know.