sábado, diciembre 30, 2006

El método Toyota

El 26 de diciembre, InfoQ publicó un brevísimo artículo de Deborah Hartmann sobre Toyota en Estados Unidos y los métodos "livianos", o "ágiles" (Lean manufacturing) de la empresa, escrito a propósito del que escribiera Charles Fishman para Fast Company en su número de diciembre. El comentario de Fishman sobre el funcionamiento de la planta de Toyota en Kentucky da para extraer ideas generalizables o aplicables en muchos otros ámbitos, entre los cuales la construcción de software es uno posible, pero no el único. Una lectura del artículo puede convocar ideas de cómo extenderlo a el negocio que le parezca, incluso uno social...
Los principios comentados por Fishman recuerdan la herencia de los principios de TQM (Total Quality Management) en los métodos de Toyota, que quizá sea lo que le falta a los intentos de emular a la empresa por su competencia americana:
It's the story of Toyota's genius: an insatiable competitiveness that would seem un-American were it not for all the Americans making it happen. Toyota's competitiveness is quiet, internal, self-critical. It is rooted in an institutional obsession with improvement that Toyota manages to instill in each one of its workers, a pervasive lack of complacency with whatever was accomplished yesterday.
(...) The process is, in fact, paramount--so important that "Toyota also has a process for teaching you how to improve the process," says Steven J. Spear, a senior lecturer at MIT who has studied Toyota for more than a decade. The work is really threefold: making cars, making cars better, and teaching everyone how to make cars better. At its Olympian best, Toyota adds one more level: It is always looking to improve the process by which it improves all the other processes.
(...) Lean manufacturing and continuous improvement have been around for more than a quarter-century. But the incessant, almost mindless repetition of those phrases camouflages the real power behind the ideas. Continuous improvement is tectonic. By constantly questioning how you do things, by constantly tweaking, you don't outflank your competition next quarter. You outflank them next decade.
(...) What happens every day at Georgetown, and throughout Toyota, is teachable and learnable. But it's not a set of goals, because goals mean there's a finish line, and there is no finish line. It's not something you can implement, because it's not a checklist of improvements. It's a way of looking at the world. You simply can't lose interest in it, shrug, and give up--any more than you can lose interest in your own future.
Fisher compara la empresa con su competencia americana, que cede día a día posiciones en el mercado de automóviles:
Lots of companies have tried to learn and use the methods that Toyota has refined into a routine, a science, a way of being and thinking. Not least among those are … GM, Ford, and Chrysler (NYSE:DCX). For more than 20 years, in fact, Toyota and GM have operated a car factory together in California--the NUMMI project--that has allowed GM to study Toyota's methods up close.
And the Big Three have each gotten better at making cars: In the past decade, GM and Chrysler have cut by one-third the hours they need to assemble a car. But they all still trail Toyota. No one knows that better than GM. "We've made a whole lot of progress," says Dan Flores, a spokesman for GM's North American manufacturing operations--much of it by learning directly from Toyota. "Transforming a company the size of GM is a daunting task. The culture of the plants doesn't change overnight. But there has been a cultural change in the company--and that change continues."
La diferencia de enfoque, un largo camino por recorrer:

Typically, though, the Big Three take an all-too-American approach to the idea of improvement. It's episodic, it's goal-oriented, it's something special--it's a pale imitation of the approach at Georgetown. "If you go to the Big Three, you'd find improvement projects just like you'd find at Georgetown," says Jeffrey Liker, a professor of engineering at the University of Michigan and author of The Toyota Way, a classic exploration of Toyota's methods. "But they would be led by some kind of engineering group, or a Six Sigma black belt, or a lean-manufacturing guru of some kind.
"They might even do as good a job as they did at Georgetown. But here's the thing. Then they'd turn that project into a PowerPoint. They'd present it at every place in the whole company. They'd say, 'Look what we did!' In a year, that happens a couple of times in a whole plant for the Big Three. And it would get all kinds of publicity in the company.
"Toyota," Liker says, "is doing it in every single department, every single day. They're doing it on their own"--no black belts--"and they're doing it regularly, not just once."
So you can buy the books, you can hire the consultants, you can implement the program, you can preach business transformation--and you can eventually run out of energy, lose enthusiasm, be puzzled over why the program failed to catch fire and transform your business, put the fat binders on a conference-room shelf, and go back to business as usual.

Existen observaciones americanas sobre el método de Toyota, que también deben ser vistas, por ejemplo, las recogidas en Gemba.

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