Jidoka

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The Devil’s Advocate

Taiichi Ohno, the day before yesterday


In which the curmudgeonly old sod puts the world to rights.

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“Automation with a human touch”: the basic insight of the Toyota Production System: machines cannot think for themselves, have no insight, and cannot progress, so will struggle in a dynamic environment to cope with shifting priorities and imperatives.

“The work done by hand in this process is the bedrock of engineering skill. Machines and robots do not think for themselves or evolve on their own. Rather, they evolve as we transfer our skills and craftsmanship to them. In other words, craftsmanship is achieved by learning the basic principles of manufacturing through manual work, then applying them on the factory floor to steadily make improvements. This cycle of improvement in both human skills and technologies is the essence of Toyota's jidoka. Advancing jidoka in this way helps to reinforce both our manufacturing competitiveness and human resource development.
Human wisdom and ingenuity are indispensable to delivering ever-better cars to customers.”

If the process for which you have deployed your machines is so static that you can leave the machines to manage it without human intervention — the dream of many misguided men — then, unless you can act as a rentier, the marginal value of that activity will tend, quickly to zero. If you can automate it, anyone can automate it.

First rule of profit seeking: seek out activities that cannot be managed without human intervention.

Second rule of profit making: find imaginative humans and look after them.

See also