Lean Sushi

By Ron Pereira Published on August 26th, 2007

I came across a fun story of how a sushi shop uses lean principles to its advantage.

Kura Zushi, operated by Kura Corp., is the third-largest player in the industry. What sets it apart is its just-in-time production system, similar to that of Toyota Motor Corp.

As a young boy I worked in a restaurant (Made-Rite Sandwich Shop in Greenville, Ohio) and can relate to the challenges of controlling waste. I wish I would have used this trick.

Monitors in the kitchen at its Sugawara outlet in the prefecture show the number of children and adults in the restaurant and how long they have been there. This is done in three categories: up to 8 minutes, between 8 and 16 minutes, and between 16 and 24 minutes.

The data is updated every minute. If there are many children, the kitchen churns out more items that will likely appeal, such as sushi rolls without wasabi and hamburger sushi. Popular items like tuna and yellowtail are served if a large number of patrons arrive at once.

It seems these people really get it and are further proof that lean and six sigma can benefit just about any business.

“I want to create a thorough system of making sushi in just the right number only when needed,” Kunihiko Tanaka, 56, president of Kura, said. “The less uneaten sushi we discard, the lower the costs. It is also eco-friendly.”

Preach it brother Tanaka. Preach it.

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