Dissing Toyota

Interrupting coverage of the Green Chemistry conference (should anyone be reading it on a gorgeous late May Friday) We've drunk deeply of the Toyota Production System kool-aid around here, but shouldn't there still be room for serendipity?   As Lee Proctor, Technical Director of Phoenix Chemical in the U.K. proposed yesterday at the New Haven Green Processing conference: Perhaps the concept of "Right First Time "is wrong.  In order to learn, you need to fail fast, learn from the failures and apply the lessons to the next problem. In his blog, In the Pipeline, drug discovery scientist Derek Lowe recently took good-natured aim at the well-meaning people who try to apply "ISO whatever-thousand, umpteem-sigma, Quality Assurance Tiger Team Circle Continuous Improvement Metrics, or what have you" to drug discovery. "Harm generally ensues," he writes.  (hmmmm.  that first sentence could apply to the article topics in any one of our magazine issues. ) For more, read on. Dr Lowe's working in drug discovery and he should know. But surely something has to give where development, scale-up and manufacturing are concerned.  Why should it take 10 years and $1 billion dollars to develop a me-too drug that's not particularly necessary, or a "blockbuster" that doesn't do anything, an ingenious product that nobody wants, a la Exubera, or, worst of all, a Vioxx. But I'm just a magazine editor. What do you in the "gemba" (the place where truth will be found---whether that's a plant floor, a laboratory, or a crime scene) think?  Write in and let us know. I confess that I'm getting hooked on all this Japanese and becoming a Toyota nerd....I'm envisioning a best seller that would apply all these concepts to daily life.  A kind of Erma Bombeck meets Shingo.  After all, what could beat the optimism of kaizen (useful when you see that your son still hasn't cleaned his room, but has managed to remove his toys from the living room floor); 5-S, which can guide the cleaning of that room, poka yoke, stickers or other visual devices that will help ensure that haven't forgotten to sign any one of the 30 permission notes for school activities and programs.  Bring it on! AMS