“At Home” salons are designed to allow DN members to get to know the personal and business sides of fellow DN members, thereby deepening ties of trust, and leading to better business.
When: September 7, 7pm
Where: Suite 3A Alphatown Kagurazaka, 2-9 Kagurazaka, Shinjuku, Tokyo162-0825 Japan
Tel: +81 3-5579-802
Cost: 2,000 yen. Please bring the correct change – a receipt will be provided. Please note there will be wine but no food.
We will look at how to use Toyota “lean” know-how to improve any company – and examine why this know-how has not spread further within Japan’s service sector.
Brad Schmidt is one of those bi-cultural executives the Delphi Network is proud to have within its ranks.
Following the interesting evening a few months ago with DN member Dom Carter of The Carter Group, the DN is organizing a second “At Home” salon at Brad’s Kagurazaka office.
Over a few glasses of his favourite Serbian (it’s a long story) wine, we will hear him talk about why he came to Japan originally (his parents were missionaries – hence his fluent Japanese, gained at local schools), what he is doing here, and how he has experienced setting up a successful consulting business in Japan.
We were especially pleased Brad joined the DN because we were intrigued by the application of world-famous “lean” manufacturing techniques to services organization. Indeed, Brad has been working with an international insurance company for several months applying what were originally manufacturing techniques.
“Lean” is the English term for the manufacturing techniques which emerged at Toyota over seven decades.
The basics are well covered by now: in contrast to the mass-production of a narrow range pioneered by Henry Ford, Toyota learnt how to produce scores of small-batch products – combining variety and scale for the first time.
Toyota also reversed the cliche of the one-task, “zombie” production worker, into an employee actively looking for defects and empowered to fix them on the spot. Augmenting “quality” is the aim. Some might argue it is eliminating “waste” but waste is merely a symptom of quality issues: where there is waste, the system has broken down.
“Augmenting” is also a key term. By enforcing transparency and standardization, benchmarking is easier, and improvements occur faster. Quality must keep going up, and the company keeps moving forward.
One can highlight two other features. The first is listening to your customers’ requirements, rather than your upstream suppliers. (Famously, it was a US supermarket’s just-in-time system that impressed visiting Toyota executives, not the smoke-belching factories of Detroit :).
The second is making sure the company works as an integrated unit. An old-style factory would feature independent production lines generating vast amounts of stuff, which would lie around the factory floor until the team doing the next stage of production was ready to receive it. At Toyota, everyone knows what needs to be done, when and in what amounts to satisfy the customer. Everything is harmonized. Perhaps the real achievement is “silo-crushing”.
In theory there is no problem with adapting these well thought-out principles to the services sector. In fact, they have not spread to the Japanese financial industry, or indeed the consulting and educational sectors.
At this event, Brad will discuss the challenges why adaptation is so difficult, but also, why it is so rewarding. Remember, Toyota took over 80 years to get it right.
Any CEO seduced by too many venture capitalists, new economy companies and digital gurus will learn how a “boring” car company understood these concepts long before Silicon Valley was born.