Can we make good lives the way we make good cars?

Starting in the early 1950’s, Toyota engineer Taiichi Ohno and his peers created a whole new way of building cars. This revolutionary method, called the Toyota Production System, married craft-based and mass-production approaches to carmaking, and positioned Toyota and Honda to dominate global auto production over the next half century.

The Toyota Production System has had astounding, hard-to-believe effects on manufacturing, reducing defects and increasing quality while lowering prices, speeding up production, and increasing both customer and worker satisfaction. The advantages of the TPS approach, now more generally called “lean production,” have been confirmed over and over again as other industries have applied the same lessons to their traditional work processes.

Personally, I would love to benefit from the advantages of lean principles in my own work. Unfortunately, I don’t own a car company or a software design studio; I spend a lot of my time at home, taking care of our two young toddlers and trying to keep our lives as clean, safe, and happy as possible.

Can the lean production principles that revolutionized the business world be applied to the problems of everyday life? Answering that question is what this blog is about. I will be talking about some of the basic principles of lean production, but more importantly, I will be attempting to use some of these principles in my own life. I want to see whether you can make a good life with same tools you’d use to make a good car.

In later posts, I’ll discuss the main categories of waste defined by the lean production approach and some of the common tools used to eliminate them. Before that, there are a few background ideas worth discussing, and that’s where we’ll go next.


About adbenking

A journeyman sociologist living in Chicagoland.
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