Lean Training



Recently I listen to Mark Grayban’s (of Leanblog podcast) interview with Jim Womack. Womack discussed the possible threat to Toyota’s growth due to lack of trainers properly trained in TPS.

So……..let’s ask ourselves some questions about training.

  1. Why do you train? Skip the obvious generic stuff.
    • What are your specific training objectives?
  2. What do you train to?
  3. Do you have standardized procedures that are being used?
  4. Who gets training?
  5. What training do they get?
  6. Where does the training occur?
  7. How do you know the training was/is effective?

It took Toyota 50 years to develop the Toyota Production System, so I thought it would be prudent to take advantage of what they are doing.
I found a wonderful source of training information specific to the Toyota Production System (and administrative as well)

A link to this information may be found here:

“Training Recommendations for Implementing Lean”

By Marek Piatkowsk who was training and education manager for Toyota in Ontario

Let’s discuss some highlights from the article:

  • A lean environment requires a different style of management, style of leadership, performance measurements, organizational structures, thinking, and culture.
  • We have done a lot of training and made organizational changes, but do we really understand how to select people to implement and run lean manufacturing?
  • Do we know what skills they need to be effective in a lean environment or what kind of training we need to develop to be successful in implementing lean?

Observation 1: Training Is Done by Managers and Leaders
One of my first discoveries about training at Toyota was that there was very little written about TPS.
*Fortunately much of TPS is documented in Jeffrey Liker’s great book “The Toyota Way”

Observation 2: On-the-Job Training (OJT)
All new managers and team leaders hired by Toyota in North America are required to spend a day working on the line. During the second day of my first trip to Japan, I spent eight hours working on the car assembly line. This is where I learned the meaning of OJT or learning by doing.

Observation 3: Understanding the Principles of TPS
All newly hired Toyota employees in North America attend a five-day orientation during the first week of employment.
At the end of the initial OJT, most of the new employees have a fundamental knowledge of the basic TPS principles:

  • Teambuilding
  • Single-piece flow
  • Pull and kanban
  • Takt time
  • Achieve the highest quality
  • Cost drivers
  • How to identify, report, and solve problems
  • Seven types of waste
  • Kaizen
  • Three rules of JIT

1. Produce only what the customer needs
2. In the right quantity
3. At the right time

Observation 4: Five Necessary Skills of a Leader
Toyota requires five basic levels of knowledge and skills from a leader:

  1. Knowledge of roles and responsibilities
  2. Knowledge of job elements
  3. Training skills
  4. Leadership skills
  5. Kaizen skills

Observation 5: Development of Managers and Leaders
As each North American operation matured and started to depend less and less on the knowledge of Japanese trainers, the North American managers were given the responsibility to sustain TPS. These courses included:

  1. The role of the supervisor
  2. Job instructions
  3. Standardized work
  4. Principles of a pull system and JIT
  5. Problem solving
  6. Kaizen workshops

Lessons Learned
Toyota employees do not learn TPS from books, classrooms, or by attending seminars. They learn TPS from OJT and from their superiors, their managers, their leaders, and their mentors, who continuously advise, review, correct, and drive the knowledge.

Training Recommendations for Implementing Lean

The objectives of a lean training program are:

  1. To create an understanding of lean theories and principles. All employees should participate in this training.
  2. To train and to identify roles and responsibilities of individuals responsible for implementing and sustaining specific lean processes. All managers, supervisors, and technical support people should participate in this training.
  3. To develop a certification program of a lean practitioner. This training should be given only to a selected group of people who will be responsible for driving the implementation of lean throughout the organization, monitoring progress of activities and continuously improving the process.

Training modules are grouped into three levels of advancement. The three levels are:
* Level I (Basic)  Principles of lean
* Level II (Intermediate) Activities based training
* Level III (Advanced)  Sustaining and improving

Level I Training: Principles of Lean

Theme: How to Manage in a Lean Environment
Training Module: Leadership Development Training

Theme: Knowledge of Lean Tools and Methodologies
Training Module: Principles of JIT and Pull Systems

The objective of this course is to show differences between a traditional process of scheduling production versus building based on customer pull. Several key topics need to be addressed:

  1. Takt time
  2. Material flow
  3. Information flow
  4. Role and types of kanban
  5. Principles of single-piece flow
  6. Level production schedule
  7. Concept of lead time

Training Module: Elimination of Waste

Level II Training: Activities Based Training

Theme: How to Manage in a Lean Environment

Training Module: 5s for Workplace Organization

Training Module: Job Instructions
The effective use of this method has shortened the learning period, reduced learner anxiety, and improved quality and productivity..

Training Module: Value-Stream Mapping
Mapping is just a tool, and if you do not know how to use it correctly, it will have no meaning.


Theme: Knowledge of Lean Tools and Methodologies
Training Module: Visual Controls

Implementation of visual controls starts by installing simple communication tools and by initiating some simple shop-floor activities including:

Training Module: Total Productive Maintenance (TPM)

TPM focuses its methodology on elimination of six major obstacles to equipment effectiveness:

Training Module: Setup Time Reduction
There are two elements to setup time reduction. One addresses equipment modifications (technical improvements), the other deals with the elimination of waste in setup methodology.

Training Module: Standardized Work

This is true activity-based, hands-on training.

Training Module: Material Flow and Kanban
All the steps for creating a material-handling system for purchased parts is very well defined in the Making Materials Flow book available through LEI.

Level III Training: Sustaining and Improving

Theme: How to Manage in a Lean Environment

Training Module: Kaizen and Visual Management
A visual management system signals whenever an abnormal condition exists so timely corrective action can be taken.

Theme: Knowledge of Lean Tools and Methodologies

Training Module: Kaizen Workshop for Creating Continuous Flow

Training Module: Level Production

Developing and implementing a new system, such as lean, is difficult , takes time and patience.

Without standardization, what do you train to?

An effective training program, modeled after Toyota’s will assist in sustaining, growing and continuously improving your system.

Print out Marek Piatkowski’s article and begin to put some or all of it to use today.

One Comment

  1. Toni Davies

    Thank you.
    This is as good an overview as any of what must be realized for any organization attempting to put true kaizen practices to use.
    Lean or kaizen really speaks to how people, at all levels, approach their work. All the tools in the world are useless without this understanding. Culture is not separate from the work- it is the work. Relationships are supportive of the work, leadership drives the work, and everyone is involved in improving their part of the work.
    Training, whether formal or OTJ, is a support system, and crucial to providing the skills & knowledge of those at all levels. But it cannot compete with a lack of leadership direction and effective resource deployment. Trainers & consultants are key to support and guide strategy and implementation. But they cannot compete with a lack of vision & commitment from top leadership.
    This is not a fast process, but it is always better than the day year, month, or day before if applied conscientiously and with the big picture always in mind.
    The better we get, the faster we get at improving, because we do so as part of how we work, naturally, and with systems in full support. It does not happen in the reverse order.

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