Creating Social Value Blog / Corporate Social Relevance

Lean for Social Innovation: Yes to TPS

By Wade Vincent, Toyota Production System advisor. This post is part of a series that explores how Toyota Production System (TPS) concepts are applied in the nonprofit sector to support social innovation. Posts include the opinions of thought leaders and Babson student perspectives.

I have worked for Toyota for 15 years in many capacities – vehicle assembly, body weld and administrative functions. Today, I get to share Toyota’s manufacturing know-how with organizations dedicated to hunger relief, disaster recovery, healthcare etc. as well as manufacturing companies who are looking to optimize their operations. I find myself fortunate to do this as my job!

And in the past year, we embarked on a one of a kind partnership with Babson to help develop a learn by doing course offering which piloted last spring.

Some of you may be thinking, where to begin? What’s the process like? And what’s the goal for sustainability? Very important questions which I’ll talk about from Toyota’s perspective. Over the course of three months, we go on a TPS journey:

Step 1: Babson identifies a nonprofit partner who can benefit from TPS thinking and has the openness to implement new ideas as experiments, in this case it was The Greater Boston Food Bank;

Step 2: We learn more about the organization’s business need (e.g. shorter wait periods, reduce customer lead time, increase safety and/or quality, cost reduction) and analyze /gather data;

Step 3: Together we map the process and spend days (or weeks) in the life of the process to find out an area that we can improve – we call this inch wide, mile deep thinking.

Step 4: Now that we have a project theme – together – Babson (students, faculty, and staff), Toyota and the nonprofit will come up with (and trial) ideas to make our focus area more productive;

Step 5: We evaluate the new approach or method.

As a Toyota advisor, it’s my role to break barriers and encourage innovative thinking through the use of TPS along the way. There’s something I know for sure, Toyota’s manufacturing know-how works. Any student or nonprofit will learn that TPS is about small improvements that can make a big difference.

In TPS, one has to be willing to fail and trial things as experiments. Not every experiment will be successful but the idea is to learn by doing. Sometimes the doing doesn’t yield tangible results, but it can certainly produce learning opportunities, and that’s at the essence of what each of us are trying to accomplish here. Thanks in part to this collaboration, a nonprofit will benefit from our joint ideas to find better ways of doing things and eventually they’ll learn it enough so they make it their own.

See you on the shop floor!