Charles Fishman writes about the relentless pursuit of improvement at Toyota taking the example of the work performed at its North American manufacturing plants. He provides one of the best writing on the Toyota Way.
As recently as 2004, a car body spent 10 hours in painting. Robots did much of the work, then as now, but they were supplied with paint through long hoses from storage tanks. “If we were painting a car red, before we could paint the next car white, we had to stop, flush the red paint out of the lines and the applicator tip, and reload the next color,” Buckner says. Georgetown literally threw away 30% of the pricey car paint it bought, cleaning it out of equipment and supply hoses when switching colors.
Now, each painting robot, eight per car, selects a paint cylinder the size of a large water bottle. A whirling disk at the end of the robot arm flings out a mist of top-coat paint. When a car is painted–it takes just seconds–the paint cartridge is set back down, and a freshly filled cartridge is selected by each robot.
No hoses need to be flushed. There is no cleaning between cars. All the paint is in the cartridges, which are refilled automatically from reservoirs. Cars don’t need to be batched by color–a system that saved paint but caused constant delays. Cars now spend 8 hours in paint, instead of 10. The paint shop at any moment holds 25% fewer cars than it used to. Wasted paint? Practically zero. What used to require 100 gallons now takes 70.
The benefits ripple out. Not only does Georgetown use less paint, it also buys less cleaning solvent and has dramatically reduced disposal costs for both. Together with new programming to make the robots paint more quickly, Buckner’s group has increased the efficiency of its car-wash-sized paint booths from 33 cars an hour to 50.
To achieve this kind of success you need a cultural change in the entire organization and not for example, only in the strategy department. The same goes of environmental ideas. And, there are many different management practices which are compatible with the ideas and principles of sustainability and these need to be incorporated into business strategy as it is aligned with Sustainability.