TPS Benchmarking

What I Learned About TPS from Ratatouille

By Jon Miller Published on November 22nd, 2007

carrots in kitchen.JPG
Our family watched the Disney-Pixar animated film Ratatouille last night. It is a story about an intelligent rat and a kitchen full of cooks at a haute cuisine restaurant in Paris. About half way through the film a cook named Colette is teaching the protagonist Linguini some of the basics of cooking. Here’s what I learned about TPS from watching Ratatouile:
The chef writes the recipe. The first key point is that there is in fact a recipe. The sensei, or chef, has kindly written down the step by step approach to cooking a great dish. Just as ingredients are ingredients, people are people, processes are processes. Specific combinations result in specific outcomes. Work is highly specified in a TPS environment, and there is a recipe to follow to achieve this.
Follow the recipe. She explains that the master chef Gusteau always included one surprise in his recipe. Linguini ask if it is their job to add a surprise to the recipe and Colette emphatically tell him that it is the job of the cook in the kitchen to follow the recipe. Organizations on the path to Lean would save a lot of time if they 1) found the recipe and then 2) followed it rather than substituting ingredients, thinking they know better than the master chefs who came up with TPS. Just as in martial arts, copy the master’s form first, and only then break away from it to develop your own style.

Keep your station clear.
There is a great 5S moment when Colette clears away a mountain of pots and pans from Linguini’s cooking station, advising him to keep only what he needs right now and to keep the station clear since you never know what you will need next and need to be flexible.
Keep your hands in. In order to avoid cuts, burns, spills and unnecessary motion by keeping your elbows in and hands in front of you and at working height. This is as true in the hospital, engineering office factory floor as it is in the kitchen.
Every second counts. Colette’s mastery with knives is amazing as she explains to Linguine that cutting vegetables in the restaurant’s kitchen is not the same as how his mom would cut vegetables at home. Sequence and timing of work is highly specified in TPS, because every second counts.
Anyone can cook. These are the words of the master chef Gusteau. Anyone can do kaizen. Anyone can practice TPS.

  1. Alberto

    November 22, 2007 - 12:22 pm

    I haven’t seen the movie yet… gues i’ll have to now, great observation Jon, Thanks

  2. bent

    November 25, 2007 - 7:16 am

    In my mind is “follow the recipe” the opposite of kaizen, which is continuously evolve and improve the recipe.

  3. Jon Miller

    November 26, 2007 - 11:58 am

    Hi Bent,
    That’s a good point.
    In the movie the young chef was eager to add his own twist to the recipe, and the more experienced chef told him “follow the recipe.” At some point, with more experience, each chef can make their own improvements to the standard, but first they need to perform the standard flawlessly.
    In Lean terms this would be “improve based on standards” rather than change things randomly.

  4. ekaizen

    November 29, 2007 - 11:22 am

    You are like me, all the time thinking in kaizen.
    In all the situation you can learn.

  5. mario

    March 19, 2008 - 8:02 pm

    I actually work in Toyota and have the pleasure to “live” TPS daily…One of the lessons I’ve learned is: If you don’t have a standard you cannot see the problem…getting back to standard is problem solving. Improving the standard and sustain it: is improvement (kaizen)

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