Pit Crew Kaizen

By Jon Miller Published on January 9th, 2006

One of the aims of a Lean business model based on the Toyota Production System is to deliver products and services just in time, or exactly what the customer needs, when the customers needs it and in the exact amount they need. Production and delivery of the product or service ideally happens just in time also, in order to not carry inventory.
This requires the minimization of set ups, transaction costs, and causes of downtime and loss which are at the root of so-called “economies of scale” that cause businesses to produce in batches larger than the customers are buying right now. SMED or Single Minute Exchange of Dies, as develped by Shigeo Shingo, helps you reduce changeover time, cut lot sizes ideally to one piece and fulfill this Lean just in time operational model.
When doing SMED or set up reduction one of the common expressions is “Pit Crew Kaizen”. In an F1 or Nascar race the pit crew is responsible for working on the race car and returning it to the race track as quickly as possible. Fractions of a second make the difference between the winning car and the runner up. The pit crew who minimizes the downtime of the race car using good organization (5S), times and coordinates teamwork (Standard Work) and cuts out wasted motion helps win the race.
Toyota has an F1 team. Do you think their pit crew follows the “pit crew kaizen” method to cut down the time the car is stopped? An article today in the Sport Network titled My Visit to Cologne takes you on a tour of the Toyota F1 factory in France. Here’s an excerpt:
“Our Kaizen engineers, had actually gone to Cologne to work with the pit crews a few weeks before and for those that didn’t notice, Toyota consistenly was placing itself as one of the fastest crews in the pits, thanks to these engineers which actually were working to show each person on the crew how to reduce the amount of movements necessary to do their job in sequence, which shaves off those precious tenths of a second.”
The whole article is interesting, and worth a read. The next time you need to reduce changeover times watch what a pit crew does and learn from them.

  1. David Bedjanc

    July 25, 2006 - 2:02 pm

    I have read a few of your articles, very intersting content.
    Often times lean requires that you identify the non-value added tasks in a process. The traditional method is to use a stop watch to collect the data and then proceed to manually enter this data so as to produce charts and reports. It is ironic that this process is a waste of time. Our firm had produced a software to collect this data with a PDA or handheld, thus making the process more efficient and accurate. Upon completion of the study you simply sync to your workstation and our software does the rest by producing charts and graphs that assist in the analytical process. Check out UmtPlus at http://www.umtproducts.com

  2. Leroy Fox

    May 28, 2007 - 3:08 pm

    I believe this one applies “Unless each man produces more than he receives, increases his output, there will be less for him than all the others”, doesn’t it?

  3. Blaine Stutsman

    June 14, 2007 - 2:23 am

    This one makes sense “One’s first step in wisdom is to question everything – and one’s last is to come to terms with everything.”

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