- Image: Toyota Global Newsroom.

B​eing an entrepreneur is not an easy task. On top of the constant management of a business; entrepreneurs must also try and find a way to stay on top of the competition in order to be the market leaders.

H​owever, Toyota don't just focus on marketing their products. Another common business practice is to lower your costs in order to be more profitable, and it was Toyota that came up with a method that would revolutionise the way businesses operate for a long time - and they all did it with just one word:

K​aizen

K​aizen (改善 / かいぜん) is the Japanese word for 'continuous improvement', and this is the mentality that every single employee at Toyota must follow. It is also known as 'The Toyota Effect'.

Image: Toyota Global Newsroom.

Image: Toyota Global Newsroom.

Every employee that works at Toyota must come up with two 'Kaizens' (improvements) every month so that Toyota can become as productive and as efficient as possible. These improvements can range from saving a couple of vital seconds, all the way to saving a few minutes on one particular task. Kaizens can be put on tasks as big or as small as you want - as long as it makes the process better than it was before.

In fact, James May himself produced a documentary where he was at the Toyota factory and he had to come up with a Kaizen himself. In the clip that I have linked below, James found it quite time-consuming to pick up screws and attach them to a screwdriver when assembling a steering wheel. The Toyota team went and produced a more simple system to help make the process quicker.

Here are some more examples of improvements that Toyota have made with this method:

Racks that contain components are programmed to drive along the assembly line, which saves the time of walking over to the rack and walking back as the line moves on.

Toyota have robotic arms that hold the windscreen over the top of the car and places it into the chassis when the worker says it's ready - purely to save from the time going to retrieve the windscreen, and reduce the possibility of damaging it.

There are even some extremely small changes that make a huge difference in the long run. In James May's documentary, they showed off a sticker picker that only saves 1/3 of a second when peeling them, which seems like absolutely nothing. However, 96 stickers need to be applied to a car - meaning this device saves 28.8 seconds per vehicle.

Once again, this figure seems like a waste of time. Yet, if you consider the amount of cars that come off of the Toyota production line every year; you can produce entire cars in the amount of time you save.

Toyota confirmed that they produce 10 million vehicles every year. If you save almost 30 seconds per car when changing something as simple as peeling a sticker; this would mean that the total amount of timed saved is a staggering 80,000 hours per year - Just by changing how you peel a sticker! If that doesn't convince you that this is a good idea, than I have no idea what will...

And that is how Toyota revolutionised the business world with just one single idea. If changing how to peel a sticker saves 80,000 hours; then I cannot imagine how much time gets saved by the bigger tasks. What do you think of Kaizen? Let me know in the comments below. You can also see the clip of James May below:

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