The Principle-Adoption of New Technology Must Support Your People, Process, and Values

At Toyota, new technology is introduced only after it is proven out through direct experimentation with the involvement of a broad cross-section of people. This does not exclude new or cutting-edge technology. It means the technology has been thoroughly evaluated and tested to ensure it provides added value. Before adopting new technology, Toyota will go to great lengths to analyze the impact it may have on existing processes. First, it will go and see firsthand the nature of the value-added work being performed by the workers for the particular process. It will look for new opportunities to eliminate waste and even out the flow. Toyota will then use a pilot area to improve the process with the existing equipment, technology, and people. When it has accomplished as much improvement as possible with the present process, Toyota will ask again if it can make any additional improvements by adding the new technology. If it determines that the new technology can add value to the process, the technology is then carefully analyzed to see if it conflicts with Toyota’s philosophies and operating principles. These include principles of valuing people over technology, using consensus decision making, and an operational focus on waste elimination. If the technology violates these principles or if there is any chance it may adversely disrupt stability, reliability, and flexibility, Toyota will reject the technology or at least delay adopting it until the problems can be resolved.

If the new technology is acceptable, the guiding principle is to design and use it to support continuous flow in the production process and help employees perform better within the Toyota Way standards. This means the technology should be highly visual and intuitive. Ideally, it will be used right where the work is being done so it does not require a person in an office to input the data. The important principle is to find ways to support the actual work process while not distracting people from the value-added work. Throughout this analysis and planning, Toyota will broadly involve all key stakeholders in a consensus-building process. Once Toyota has thoroughly gone through this process, it will quickly implement the new technology. Because of this painstaking process, Toyota will typically implement the new technology smoothly without the employee resistance and process disruption that other companies often experience.