Project Kaizen

Bringing the power of continuous improvement to the project setting

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  • Published: Mar 25th, 2009
  • Category: General
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All Subaru Did Was Ask

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Isn’t it amazing that the US government is getting behind green initiatives? I thought that reuse, recyle and reduce were cost effective by themselves. Apparently not. However…Subaru of America’s 20-year history challenges that. Drs. Alan Robinson and Dean Schroeder just published an article in the Wall Street Journal, Greener and Cheaper telling Subaru’s head start on the auto industry. Their story is inspiring. But even more, it’s a wake-up call. Why aren’t all businesses doing this?

Subaru America employees are one of the most prolific improvers
You’ve probably seen the Subaru ads on TV. It shows a plant in the middle of an idyllic field with deer going by. I’ve been to that plant. To think that deer are feeding on the property is amazing. This is a typical industrial setting. Except it’s not typical. Subaru is not dumping or land filling anything. How do they do it? In a word…kaizen.

Robinson and Schroeder explain the Subaru approach to support their claim that Greener Is Cheaper. Frankly, they could make an easier argument. Ask your workers to reduce waste and they will. The Subaru plant uses 100 fewer pounds of steel per car than they used to use. The don’t put anything in a landfill. They have engaged the whole workforce in finding wastes and eliminating them. Sounds like a great environmental stance. But I think it’s a more important strategy.

All they did was ask.
Subaru has an engaged workforce. The authors don’t say it in this article, but Subaru employees in the US are one of the most prolific group of improvers. These people are improving the business at over 100 adopted improvements per person per year. They’ve been doing that for at least the last four years. That’s 2 adopted improvements per person per week times 3000 employees.

Of course greener is cheaper. But more important is Subaru people are fully engaged in the mission of the company. That is the miracle of this story. And all they did was ask.

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