Business GCSE / National 5: Kaizen - new ideas to improve productivity

James May visits a car factory in Derby to find out how Toyota use a technique called kaizen to improve efficiency and so stimulate productivity.

James explains that kaizen is the key element of the lean production approach to manufacturing. He interviews an employee who has designed and built a machine called Dougal that delivers windscreens straight to the production line.

Dougal saves time that workers once spent walking backwards and forwards from the store. Toyota encourage every worker to come up with two kaizen improvements every month.

James accepts the challenge to suggest his own kaizen improvement for building steering wheels. He notes that inserting screws to fix the steering wheel together is “fiddly”.

Other workers explain their own kaizen suggestions by which a few seconds saved can add up to significant cost reductions. For instance, eliminating a few steps collecting components, or cutting 6.4 second on the time taken to deliver windscreens to the production line.

A new ‘sticker-picker’ cuts 0.3 of a second off the time taken to pick up a sticky label that identifies parts. Overall this adds up to an overall time saving of 28.8 seconds in making one car.

James returns to the shop floor to find Toyota have designed a new machine that makes it quicker to make a steering wheel by dispensing two screws into his hand.

Teacher Notes

Key Stage 4

A real world example of how encouraging workers to be innovative can lead to small and continuous gains in productivity. Topics for discussion include the distinction between production and productivity and the impact of encouraging worker innovation on motivation and labour retention. Students could discuss how to reduce the time taken to distribute classroom resources such as exercise books or whiteboards during lessons and calculate the overall time saved for learning.

Key Stage 5

This short film demonstrates practical examples of how continuous kaizen improvements leading to small-time savings can have significant impact on costs. Students could investigate the potential for kaizen improvements at their own place of part-time work or at local businesses such as a café. To what extent does kaizen reduce the need for investment in new machinery to improve productivity?

Curriculum Notes

This short film is suitable for teaching GCSE (KS4) / National 5 business.

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