Human capital is the most valuable asset
I read with interest Thomas Fullove’s letter to the editor in the March issue of Paperboard Packaging. I share Fullove’s belief that lasting change in organizations must emphasize the value of our most important asset, human capital.
My involvement with lean manufacturing began when I was working within a packaging manufacturer in a development position. Lean seemed to me to be an intriguing collection of tools for cost reduction, but I saw no organizing principles that would help leaders to choose the right tool for a given problem. More importantly, I did not see a link to developing the skills and motivation of the teams involved that would encourage the adoption of the tools as a part of the organizations’ fabric. Only through a good deal of reading and experience in implementing lean tools did it become apparent that the Toyota Production System (TPS) does value people above all else.
The writers of texts on the subject in both Japan and the United States have done a poor job of communicating the methods of involving, motivating, and transferring ownership to teams that are accountable for improving their workplace on a daily basis. Yet, this is exactly what Toyota does. It is this, and not the Asian culture or the Japanese work ethic, which makes the TPS work. Otherwise you would see Honda along with Toyota eclipsing Ford. Many have copied Toyota’s tools, but few approach the success they have achieved.
Scott Ellis EdD
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