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The Toyota Way to continuous improvement

Toyota’s Thames Vehicle Operations (TVO) facility is one of my favourite places to visit. It’s where the company refurbishes vehicles for its ‘Signature Class’ program. The staff are enthusiastic and very generous with their time but, more importantly, it’s a great place see ‘lean’ methodologies and ‘5S’ in action. They call it the Toyota Production System or the Toyota Way but it’s basically the same thing. At the moment, our Advanced Lean Management 2015 group is focusing on 5S and keeping a visual workplace so they were very excited by the visit.


At TVO, the group could clearly see how the staff are all highly involved. They are well trained, respected and the focus is on teamwork. More importantly, TVO staff understand what the business is trying to achieve and they are encouraged to highlight any issues and then develop improvements. The target for staff improvement suggestion is 300 per year – in 2015, there were actually 375 improvements implemented so it’s a very successful strategy.


It can be very daunting when people first get involved in 5S so doing a tour of TVO helped to put things in perspective. The TVO Team isn’t doing anything that a collision centre couldn’t do – they simply have processes in place for everything, they don’t pass a job to the next work station unless it’s up to standard and everyone knows what that standard is. It’s all about continuous improvement process by identifying and removing waste from processes wherever it’s found, then measurement systems are used to monitor what’s going on and driver further improvements. The TVO Team are very special in what they do and I think all our group members left very motivated and with a commitment to try to emulate their performance.