Very good article – What drives Toyota? [the broken link was removed] by Charles Fishman:
So a team of assembly employees made a real decision. Don’t make the worker pick the parts; let him focus on installing them. The idea seems obvious in retrospect: Deliver a kit of presorted visors and seat belts–one kit per car, each containing exactly the right parts. The team applied the simplest technology available, the blue Rubbermaid caddy. “We went just down the road to Wal-Mart and bought them,” Artrip says. Now, the line worker doesn’t have to make any decisions at all. Just grab the handle of the blue tote like a lunch pail and step into the car.
Deceptively simple, like so much of the Toyota Production System. And that simplicity and the action is so important to successful application of the ideas.
This is exactly the kind of work Artrip has spent more than half his career at Toyota doing: looking for ways to make the assembly line faster, simpler, safer–ways to make it easier to do the work perfectly. Continuous improvement is not some add-on to the real work, it isn’t some special project Artrip has to do on top of his routine responsibilities, nor is he a guy who parachutes into the assembly line from an engineering building somewhere else. It is what he comes to the factory every day thinking about. It isn’t exhausting, it’s exhilarating.