WA firms tap Japanese know-how
Sean Smith | The West Australian | 18 February 2015
WA businesses as diverse as Monadelphous and Jason Windows are tapping the management know-how that has moulded Japan’s industrial powerhouses.
So-called “lean” management encapsulates various philosophies and practices but is best associated with Toyota’s production system.
Strip it down, and lean management is about delivering quality goods and services at the best possible prices as quickly and efficiently as possible by eliminating waste, smoothing out production bumps and empowering workers.
But as one of the world’s leading trainers of lean management Akinori Hyodo emphasised in Perth yesterday, it is no quick fix.
The former Toyota factory manager sees “a lot of room for improvement” at Australian businesses but suggests it will take time to develop a training cadre to instil the necessary changes across the production floor.
“Japan has decades of experience in this type of methodology,” he said through a translator. “The history in Australia is still shallow.”
Mr Hyodo concedes short investment cycles can put company bosses under pressure to generate quick improvements but he emphasises that a priority should be on people development.
“The role of top management is to read the future, so they need to be looking five to 10 years out, that’s where their mindset needs to be.”
Mr Hyodo yesterday led a lean management seminar hosted by Shinka Management at the WA Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
A specialist in lean management, the Adelaide-based consultancy operates tours to study production processes in Japan.
Managing director Paul Smith said lean management was often associated with manufacturing but was applicable to other industries.
“Most companies we talk to in Australia fall into one of two categories. Either they have tried lean over a relatively short period and haven’t seen results, or they’ve gotten some quick wins, patted themselves on the back, and said ‘good, that’s done’. This is entirely missing the point of a creating a culture of continuous improvement.” – Paul Smith