Sunday, January 3, 2016

A Loom, Jidoka, Innovation, and Respect for People

OK. I need to come clean. I had never come face-to-face with a loom in my whole life, until a year or so ago. My wife and I went away for our anniversary, we were walking through a museum in Portsmouth, NH, and there it was. I quickly took the picture at left. It got my brain spinning.

Like many of you I have read with fascination about how Toyota Motor Company actually started as Toyoda Automatic Loom Works Ltd. in 1926.

The term Jidoka refers to giving human qualities to machines, or "automation with a human touch". Several members of the Toyoda family were engaged in the textile industry. Sakichi Toyoda's idea was to eliminate the overburden and frustration he saw whenever the threads broke while an operator unknowingly continued to use the loom. What followed was hours and hours of disassembly and untangling. The Toyoda automatic loom stopped as soon as the thread broke, thereby eliminating all of this tedious, non value-added work.....motion, defects, non-essential processing, inventory, waiting and most important....UNUSED EMPLOYEE BRAINPOWER. It pained Sakichi to watch his family members so frustrated and sweating profusely whenever the threads broke and he had an idea that would make Toyoda Automatic Loom the best in the world. Just imagine the relief and joy of the people struggling to get their work done. Jidoka is respect for humanity!

You can think of innovation as the process of eliminating your customer's problems, or anticipating and eliminating your customer's future problems.  Now I'm sure Toyoda Automatic Loom Works Ltd was a perfectly reputable producer of looms. And I'm sure that the people who purchased and used the looms considered the hours of gymnastics of untangling and resetting up to be part of what happens sometimes. I bet that most of the customers were satisfied with the functionality and quality of the Toyoda looms.

Your business strategy cannot be to satisfy your customers. THAT is what everyone else does. We need to leverage operational excellence to DELIGHT them. Satisfying your customers is a good way to go belly up. The only way to know if your customers are satisfied is to go to the GEMBA and see for yourself. Sometimes "no news is good news"....... just because your customers aren't complaining doesn't mean they are delighted!

Focus 2019 on DELIGHTING your external & internal customers with not only your product or service offering, but with every process that touches them. From the reception desk to quoting to sampling to problem resolution. Use your A3 process to remove the tangling and rework when the "threads break" in all of your customer-facing processes. How often do they go on hold? How long does it take for them to get an answer or a call back? How long to get a quote?

Remember that in today's world, your competitors are any companies (regardless of marketplace) that DELIGHT, not satisfy, because they are the ones you are being compared to...... Disney, Amazon, LL Bean, Chick-Fil-A, etc.  

That loom got my brain spinning....


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