No Noise at Toyota’s Lexus Production Facility, Georgetown, KY?
If you are still challenged by reducing visual clutter in your organization, Toyota has just raised the bar.
Last Tuesday’s New York Times reported on the start of production of Lexus models at Toyota’s Georgetown, KY facility, the first time Lexus models have been manufactured outside of Japan.
Admired worldwide for the relentless focus of its production system, the article describes Toyota’s preparation to handle the fabrication of the Lexus model ES 350. The article describes investment in training and education, including sending workers to dealers in the U.S. and to Lexus factories in Japan—not surprising to anyone with even a modest understanding of Toyota’s approach to building cars.
But the new production line has another feature. It’s really quiet:
“The quest over the last 30 months has been to create what was unimaginable not too long ago: a largely noiseless, hushed atmosphere to house the new assembly line. ‘We want our team members to be able to hear a click,’ Mr. James [president of Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Kentucky] said. Toyotas have been produced in Georgetown since the first American-made Camry in 1988. But Lexus has a set of rules all its own. It is not just enough for a worker to see a potential problem; the worker should be able to hear it, too. ‘It’s about detecting things at a much deeper level as a vehicle heads down the line,” Mr. James said. ‘So we had to design the plant to allow for that.’"
As Mr. James points out, however, the aim is not to have a perfectly silent factory—just quiet enough to hear the appropriate click of parts assembled correctly or the different click of pieces that are not well matched.
What are the sounds in our organizations that demonstrate that work is going well? Can we hear them?