Toyota’s Kaizen: Helping Food Banks with Efficiency

This New York Times piece explains an unusual partnership that developed between the car company Toyota and the Food Bank in New York City. Instead of giving money, it gave kaizen. It’s an optimistic, remarkable way that for-profit businesses can help their communities, without giving money directly:

At a soup kitchen in Harlem, Toyota’s engineers cut down the wait time for dinner to 18 minutes from as long as 90. At a food pantry on Staten Island, they reduced the time people spent filling their bags to 6 minutes from 11. And at a warehouse in Bushwick, Brooklyn, where volunteers were packing boxes of supplies for victims of Hurricane Sandy, a dose of kaizen cut the time it took to pack one box to 11 seconds from 3 minutes.

Toyota has “revolutionized the way we serve our community,” said Margarette Purvis, the chief executive and president of the Food Bank.

A bit of history:

In the early 1990s, Toyota limited sharing its expertise to its auto parts suppliers. But as the Toyota Production System Support Center, the company’s headquarters of efficiency, came to recognize broader interest in the Toyota model, the company offered consulting-style services to nonautomotive manufacturers and nonprofit organizations. Today, the center supports about 40 organizations, half of which are small to midsize manufacturers that pay a small fee. The rest are nonprofits, like the Food Bank, that get the services free.

The term for this effort is kaizen, a philosophy for “change for the better.” More of this kind of corporate philanthropy, please.

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