​​Image of Toyota’s assembly line in Cambridge
Toyota’s assembly line in Cambridge, Ont. offers valuable lessons for UHN managers on standardization and process improvement. (Photo: Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada)​

Hospitals in downtown Toronto and a Cambridge car manufacturing plant seem worlds apart.

But every month a delegation of UHN employees makes their way to the Toyota facility in southern Ontario to see how Corolla and Lexus models are assembled.

Toyota is widely regarded as the best company on earth at standardizing and improving its processes, which is why UHN's Lean team regularly takes groups of managers out there to see for themselves.

"During the tour they talk about how important it is to follow the rules for what could be considered a straightforward task," says Lisa Semeniuk, nurse and Lean Lead, Musculoskeletal Program, Toronto Rehab. "That level of standardization allows Toyota employees to improve quickly and effectively."

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The assembly line is not unique to Toyota. But while some auto manufacturers might ask employees to install a front seat using four bolts and leave the specific routine to the staff, at Toyota they are trained on what order to put the bolts in, and how much to tighten them.

That means that no bolt is ever too tight, or too loose, and every employee takes exactly the same amount of time to do the job. It's a standardized procedure that never varies, no matter what shift a person is on or who trained them in the procedure.

From cars to patients

At UHN, the procedures relate to patients, not cars. But every patient benefits when the same exacting standards and attention to detail are applied to daily tasks.

Standardization is only half of the equation. Everyone at Toyota has the opportunity to suggest a better way to install a front seat. Much like scientists and their teams do, teams at Toyota test the hypothesis, and by comparing the new way to the standard method, they can see if the employee's sug​gestion improves or maintains quality and safety.  

In a Lean work environment, standardized processes mean everyone is working the same way. Everyone has the option to suggest a better way, and they have the opportunity to bring their idea forward to the team during a daily huddle.

The Lean Process Improvement department within UHN works with teams to help them learn from Toyota's method for standardizing processes then improving them through experimentation and problem solving.

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