The House of High Quality Articles for Everyone in the World

May 25, 2011

Doing lean yourself

What Is Lean Training?
The concept of Just in Time (JIT) and lean manufacturing training methods have been attributed to Henry Ford, who started researching and developing more efficient production methods in 1910. Ford created an automobile manufacturing system to build the Model T that was called a moving assembly line. The introduction of Ford’s production system at the Highland Park Plant took production output from 19,000 cars in 1910 to 78,440 by 1912. Ford was producing one Model T every 12 hours. His methods were so successful that Ford soon became one of the richest men in the United States. How did Henry Ford deliver lean training to his employees?

One of the main problems facing Ford was that many of his workers were unable to read or write, and many were immigrants who did not speak English. Ford decided to divide the labor into small repeatable tasks, and each employee received on the job lean training, learning through a process of direct observation and practice. His version of lean training took a long time, especially if an employee did not speak English. Each Ford worker was a specialist and trained to perform a specific task. The work was so repetitive and monotonous that employee morale was low and many workers quit their jobs after a few months. This affected the production numbers because it took time to train new employees and get them up to speed. Some estimates say Ford was spending as much as $100 to train each new employee, which was a considerable sum of money at the time. How did Henry Ford deal with his employee morale and training problems?

Henry Ford introduced a series of employee incentives. He believed these would allow him to retain his skilled employees and be able to encourage the best people to work for him. His main incentive was to introduce a profit sharing plan which increased an employee’s wages to $5 a day, which was double the acceptable pay rate at that time. Ford’s employee turnover and absenteeism problems soon disappeared. He introduced classes to teach English, math, and writing skills to his employees. This created a more stable and skilled workforce which increased productivity and reduced production costs. Between 1914 and 1916, Ford’s profits doubled from $30 million to $60 million, and he could produce a car at the rate of one every 93 minutes. By the year 1920 Ford could manufacture one car every 60 seconds.

After World War II, Toyota, a Japanese car manufacturer was making new strides by adopting many of Henry Ford’s ideas and developing them to a new level. Just like Henry Ford, Toyota realized that the success of their business was rooted in the skill and attitude of their employees towards producing a quality product. Toyota moved its business focus to become people centric. This led to employees receiving Just in Time (JIT) or lean training from experts in their field. Eventually, Toyota developed offline classrooms within their facilities to deliver lean training to their employees before being allowed to work on the assembly line. Toyota believed that by doing this, their employees would become more productive and quality focused. Their belief was correct! Today, Toyota’s manufacturing methods, known as the Toyota Production System (TPS), have become accepted as a world class standard for Just in Time (JIT) and lean training throughout every industry. Before you sign up for any lean training courses make sure the foundation for the training program is based on methods from the Toyota Production System (TPS).