Amazon.com Gets It

Not many people know that Amazon.com is one of the “places to see” if you are looking for companies practicing the TPS. The fact that their sales and profits are hitting records as most others are scratching and clawing to stay in business is telling.

This recent post by Kevin Kelleher on Gigacom really sums the whole thing up with one sentence quoted from Jeff Bezos’ letter to shareholders:

At a fulfillment center recently, one of our Kaizen experts asked me, “I’m in favor of a clean fulfillment center, but why are you cleaning? Why don’t you eliminate the source of dirt?” I felt like the Karate Kid.

If you have to keep cleaning up a mess, find out where the dirt is coming from.

But the philosophy goes deeper.

If an assembly Team Member is continuously spending time cleaning up threaded holes, go find out how the debris is getting in there (or find a way to keep it out). Go and see.

If you keep losing market share, find out why customers prefer your competitors products. (And don’t sit around a mahogany table talking about it, GO AND SEE.)

Other posts on the same site relate to eBay’s troubles trying to compete with Amazon. The difference, I think, is summed up in a quote from an Amazon executive related to me by someone who was a fly on the wall in one of their meetings:

“At an eBay sellers meeting last quarter, my counterpart was booed off the stage. That is not going to happen here.”

Kaizen is less about the tools than it is an obsessive curiousity about what the next problem is between you and perfection.

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