Passing the Baton
When the second world war ended, the general sentiment was that the Japanese Automobile industry would not survive. This time saw some of the worst worker’s strike. The strike at Toyota in 1950 was the sign that some fundamental changes were required to boost worker’s morale. Taiichi Ohno used the analogy “passing the baton” from relay races to drive this within Toyota. Typically in a relay race, a 4 runner team is supposed to pass the baton while running their respective laps, and the team crossing the finishing line first wins the race. As many of us will understand that relay races are not won by an individual but a team, and the most crucial instances in the race are when the baton is held by two members, one passing the baton to another. Races are won and lost because of these instances.
This feeling of a “team” was needed to be there in the workers to drive new production processes. The mindset is to work as a unit and pass the inventory(baton) between themselves to reach the finish line. In order to have effective process control, kanban was introduced. The story of kanban is rather fascinating in itself, which with multiple other Ohno’s initiatives, I will probably cover in upcoming stories.
The idea of passing the baton is a fascinating one. To be honest, every process that we are part of will have multiple stakeholders/contributors. When we are building a product, depending on the type of product, it goes through various stages thus various contributors. Starting with research, design, development, testing, launch to name a broader few. This exchange of ideas, information, and inputs can only be successful if all the stakeholders/contributors perform as a team with a unified goal.
Thus even for the logistics and supply chain sector, it’s very important to have real-time visibility of all key processes and information flows. It helps in identifying the bad pieces and processes and thus helps in optimizing the overall process.