Arkansas industries and schools search for their own Kata solutions

by George Jared (gjared@talkbusiness.net) 234 views 

Toyota is world renowned for the quality of the vehicles it produces, and the efficiency in its work practices. There’s a movement in Arkansas to incorporate the company’s methods, often referred to as “kata” improvements or “kata” coaching, into industrial companies and schools.

AEDC’s Arkansas Manufacturing Solutions will host an “Arkansas Kata Practitioner Day” from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Wednesday, March 29th. The workshop will be held at the Little Rock Downtown Marriott. Participants will learn the various techniques employed by the company made famous by the book “Toyota Kata,” written by Mike Rother who will serve as the keynote speaker.

“It’s basically a coaching process … it’s used on a daily basis,” Arkansas Economic Development Commission Marketing Manager Andy Capel told Talk Business & Politics. “This process is being used by companies all over the world.”

There are fundamental concepts that apply to all organizations, businesses, and governmental entities, Capel said. The goal of the workshop is to teach businesses how to propel improvements, how to shift those daily improvements into strategic goals, and how company leaders can develop solutions, based in science not pre-conceived notions, to problems.

Companies throughout Arkansas will share their experiences after they implemented the process. Nice Pak, Almatis, Cloyes Gear, and others will give testimonials.

Kata is a system of individual training exercises, primarily utilized in karate and other martial arts. By using the regiment of exercises each day, martial artists are able to fine-tune their skills and identify weaknesses more efficiently. This is the core of the kata training for companies, Capel said.

Each day workers in Toyota plants all around the world begin the same routine. The direction of the company is explicitly explained, the current situation at the company is expressed, goals or new targets are identified, and ways to achieve those new targets are identified. Managers or coaches employ the scientific method to solve problems identified in the process.

These solutions are shared with workers. The process is exactly the same each day. Once targets and goals are met, new ones are identified. It becomes so mundane many employees employ these practices without thought, similar to riding a bike, driving a car, or typing, according to the Learn Enterprise Institute (LEI). It’s the difference between understanding the car’s functioning parts and being able to navigate the road ahead, according to LEI.

According to a review of Rother’s book, most companies hamper themselves by simply identifying solutions to problems, instead of identifying methods to develop solutions – a concept referred to as a “lean environment.” This allows companies and employees to continuously grow, Capel said.

These same concepts can be applied to government and in the classroom, he adds. Arkansas is on the leading edge of kata classroom training and hundreds of teachers statewide have received kata-style training. Governmental entities will also benefit from this approach with future efforts, Capel said.

For more information on the Wednesday workshop, visit here.

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