A client asked an earnest question. I have my opinions but not observed facts. In fact I have heard conflicting information on this issue, with respect to Toyota.
How does Toyota manage their support staff documentation? Around what % levels do support staff work to standard work & timings?
In essence this question gets to the heart of how and how much can transactional or non-physical labor work be documented and standardized. Moreover, to what degrees can times be assigned to repetitive tasks that are performed in office environments?
My initial thought was that Toyota may not be the benchmark for office lean. Since this is not their gemba, the place where they add value and make money. With their focus on genchi genbutsu, they spend a lot of time in the field or on the floor, rather than in the office. Also, the A3 process of documenting business plans, proposals and problems solving is not prescriptive and requires a lot of collaboration and critical as well as creative thinking. I have heard of cases where kaizen projects were run on the translation of documents from Japanese to English, including time studies and the development of standard work. But these may be the exceptions.
So my questions to the readership are three:
1. What’s the answer to the question above, if you know it?
2. If you do office work documentation and standardization well, what do you do?
3. What have you seen as benchmarks or best practice in this area, whether within a purchasing department, in a financial service companies or a call center?
Office people, lean people, Toyota people, can you help out my friend find the answer?