For over 20 years we’ve been transferring our understanding of Toyota’s approach-what we call lean systems-into practical working strategies. Our goal is to provide critical skill sets for leadership teams, management teams, and associates throughout any organization.
The Lean Systems Program is a university-industry partnership initiated by Toyota Motor Manufacturing, Kentucky’s president, Fujio Cho, in 1994, to systematically explore, study, and teach the workings of the Toyota Production System (TPS). The program was first part of the Center for Manufacturing (then called the Center for Robotics and Manufacturing Systems), a unit within the College of Engineering at UK. In 2010 the Center was reorganized and the Lean Systems Program became part of the Institute of Research for Technology Development.
This change was a very good fit as both units are non-profit, but self-supporting through grant funding and fees for courses and services. We have also nurtured our partnership with Toyota through various activities, including the current executive-in-residence program in which a current Toyota executive serves for a period of time as director.
With many instructors who are former Toyota management, trained UK instructors and staff, we continue to serve the Commonwealth and beyond by fulfilling the University’s original land grant mission of outreach to the community. Business, industry, health care, and education, are just a few of the sectors that continue to benefit from our courses and coaching services.
Once known as lean manufacturing, lean systems is a way to lower operating costs by cutting wastes of all kinds. But it’s not just a toolkit. Although concepts such as kanban, 5s, kaizen and 8 Step problem solving are often discussed as if they could be applied in isolation, True Lean™ practitioners soon realize that lean can’t be successfully applied piecemeal.
That is, there’s no point in solving a problem here, then creating something twice as bad ten feet away – or trying to implement lean on the production floor without the necessary lean accounting and human resources approaches to support it. Doing lean successfully means seeing (and solving problems) in your operations from a systems perspective. To be most successful, it must be an actual cultural transformation within the organization.
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