Toyota Way Principle #5: Stopping to Fix Problems

Posted on May 14, 2012 | in Lean Tools, Maintenance, TPM (Total Productive Maintenance) | by

It really pains me to see cars tape up body fixtures like broken tail lights. It looks so tacky AND fails to provide suitable coverage and protection.

Sure, it’s a cheap temporary repair and a broken tail light slapped together with tape will get you to the repair shop, but how long must “temporary” be in place before the real fix has to be put in place?

Temporary repairs always cost more than the permanent fixes – you’ve spent money but still have to do the permanent fix too!

At least a temporary fix is something that will hold you over and you’ve addressed it. Somewhat. How bad would it be if you just ignored the problem all together? Safety issues (no lights to communicate braking) and no protection from the elements (rain water or animals finding their way into the interior) could be more detrimental.

Toyota Way’s fifth principle is:

“Build a culture of stopping to fix problems, to get quality right the first time.”

It’s so easy to just ignore problems when they pop up because they keep you from being productive. Sometimes you brush it off and say it won’t happen again.

But how do you know? If it happened once how are you sure it won’t re-occur?

Truth be told, it’s easier in the long run to stop and fix the issue right away because you’ll be doing whatever is necessary to make sure the problem will NOT re-occur.

Notice that I said fix. I’m defining fix as not only repairing back to standard condition (how it was when it was brand new) but also finding ways to safeguard against re-occurrence. Fix is better than repair because I’m defining repair as a temporary stopgap that re-establishes functionality to a sufficient level but not to the standard condition.

It’s easier to fix instead of repair even if the pain up front is rougher. If you’ve fixed the problem properly (used root cause analysis as necessary and considered all possible problems against which to safeguard) then the problem will most likely not come back. Compare that to easy repairs that you might have to repeat again and again.

Use root cause analysis and the five-whys to figure out why a problem occurs, figure out what can be done to make sure the problem won’t come back, and make that fix.

The more you attack problems and fix them, the more the organizational culture will begin to see the simplicity in doing so and the benefits realized by not having as many breakdowns or repeated repairs. This will build momentum toward a change in culture of not tolerating problems and continuous repairs.

Fixes are faster, easier, and cheaper in the long run. Sacrifice temporary pain to make sure long-suffering frustrations disappear.

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