Earlier this month, the Quality Improvement Teams for all of Radiology (X-ray, Nuclear Medicine, CT, etc.) were given the opportunity to visit and tour the Toyota Motor Manufacturing facility in Georgetown, Kentucky. Most of us have heard of the Toyota Motor Corporation and know of its excellence in motor vehicle manufacturing, but not as many of us were aware of their tremendous effect on quality improvement/production throughout the world.
In a nutshell, the Toyota Production System (TPS) is a uniquely fresh twist on manufacturing roles and, more importantly, on how any changes are brought to the table. Their model supports an employee-empowered system, where the people responsible for doing the frontline work are the ones who create ideas for everyday issues and brainstorm their own solutions. This allows the upper management tiers to focus primarily on facilitating the change rather than coming up with all the answers and bringing change. Businesses and hospitals around the country, such as Disney and Cincinnati Children’s, are evolving into this new way of occupational quality and focusing more on employee-supported changes.
While at the tour we were given a trolley ride throughout the entire facility accompanied by a seasoned tour guide to explain the finer details of their production operation. Multiple fixes, both big and small, were highlighted during the ride. It was interesting to notice how smoothly the production line traveled, even with innovative changes in place. Without our tour guide’s specifics there would have been no way to determine a new protocol verses something that has been standard for years because their movements were so seamless. The changes seemed to work because they came from a good source–the frontline employees. There is definitely a mutual respect between the frontline workers and managers that can be felt when traveling down the production lanes. Everyone is empowered to make their situation better. This experience of working together for consistent evolution for the better is what makes the TPS stand out.
When the educational trip was coming to an end, our wonderful tour guide mentioned this workplace culture is not an easy goal to achieve. It certainly takes a ton of work, time and patience to adjust to this innovative method, but Cincinnati Children’s is willing to take on the challenge. We believe that looking into alternative options for quality and bringing them back home will help us continue to change the outcome together.