Toyota Production System ANDON to improve project's performance.

TPS (Toyota Production System) concepts are time tested and known to bring benefits in automotive industry. Imagine how you can benefit from this concept being applied to IT industry. In one of our accounts we implemented the Toyota Production system and had huge benefits. I am sharing the experience herewith. 
TPS has multiple concepts or levers. Visual Management system  or ANDON is one of the principle elements of the JIDOKA quality-control method pioneered by Toyota and now part of the Lean methodology. ANDON is a manufacturing term referring to a system to notify management, maintenance, and other workers of a quality or process problem.  It gives the worker the ability, and moreover the empowerment, to stop production when a defect is found, and immediately call for assistance. Common reasons for manual activation of the Andon are part shortage, defect created or found, tool malfunction, or the existence of a safety problem. Work is stopped until a solution has been found. The alerts may be logged to a database so that they can be studied as part of a continuous-improvement program.ANDON is chosen as it helps in Process control through Visual Mechanism. It depicts abnormalities in project by visuals.
The Application 
First we planned a visit to the Toyota plant in our city. This was needed as I wanted my team to get  first-hand experience of how the Toyota Production System was implemented in Manufacturing and assess what can be implemented in a software development or IT Industry. If I had just suggested the TPS by reading an article on the internet or giving them a book to read, the team would not have bought into the idea and hence the whole application would have been sub-standard and would have fizzled out. In this case the project team members themselves came up with the ideas, so there was no change management required from my side. During the visit the team saw various  sections of Toyota manufacturing. Team learnt, how toyota follows proper processes. This aspect was lacking in our team as most members did not believe in folling the process. The team came out with folling innovative ideas during the visit to Toyota Plant. 
Drawing parallels from ANDON , we decided to use following Visuals in our project. 
  1. Dashboard View 
  2. Live Schedulers
  3. Project Architecture, Control Charts visuals
  4. Notification Management System
  5. Hotspot
Dashboard View
Dashboard displays all the key parameters and the performance trend in the project. Objective of the dashboard is to provide the entire project related data visually thus increasing awareness of different project parameters within the team. This helps in educating the team on the overall performance of the project by highlighting various project metrics such as Productivity, Cost of Quality, Schedule Adherence, Client delight.
Live Schedulers
This helps in displaying the current status of the calls and the resource utilization for the same. Intention of the scheduler is to cut down the slack time and utilize the resource for other work such as development work or tools development. It provides the real time updates of the status of the pending tasks of the day. This scheduler need to be updated by the team at a predefined frequency (2-3 times daily) to provide the real time data. It motivates talents to complete the job ahead of others. It helps in reducing the time spent for the status update meetings. 
Project Architecture, Control Charts visuals
These charts help in improving the awareness of domain and application knowledge of the team members. Charts are placed strategically in the project area for reference. It promotes knowledge sharing and increases application awareness across project team. The team member working on one section of the application gets better understanding of the entire application. This preventive maintenance approach helps in team productivity improvement.
Notification Management System
Notification Management is a visual process which warrants immediate attention of team members and helps in resolving the issues immediately. The team member looking for help raises a Red Flag made available on each individual desk. It helps in drawing the manager’s attention and helps resolving the issue quickly. The other team members approach the person needing help. This also helps in noticing the pattern of the issues.  
Hotspot is used to display the current action item for the whole team. This helps as reminder for the entire team and timely closure of the activities highlighted. 
Time spent on team meetings was greatly reduced thereby increasing the productivity and management bandwidth.
Project margin increased by 3%.
Team started using more tools to do their work and increased the productivity by 18%. Tools were specially used during testing phases. 
Immediate resolution of the problem helped in saving effort of team members and improving the productivity.
Visual Control charts have improved team members understanding on both domain and applications.
There were few other soft benefits, like team was more disciplined in submitting their timesheets, and overall they believed that they can do complex work while maintaining a proper discipline. 
So in case you are looking to implement the TPS in your IT project I would suggest the following steps
  1. Identify the key issues or risks in your project 
  2. Plan a visit to Toyota plant in your city or nearest city. Team will come up with ideas. 
  3. Check what Visual control mechanisms can be adopted for your project. 
  4. Designt the charts, metrics which are relevant and compelling  
  5. Ensure that during the entire process the team is involved and their suggestions are taken into account. 
  6. Visuals will need to be updated on periodic basis , preferably once a week.  
  7. Visuals need to be placed in strategic location in work area so everyone can notice and it gives team the sense of Visual control 
  8. Ensure you create enablement for your team members and prepare knowledge kit for inducting new team members. 

Hope this article helps you in infusing some new energy in your routine project work through visual control mechanisms of TPS.