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.