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Lean Manufacturing the Toyota Way

by Peter Ikeda

“Since people make things, work must begin by developing people.” ~Eiji Toyoda

Here at Purnaa, people are at the core of what we do and how we do it excellently. We believe ethical business can both transform people’s lives and still continue to deliver superior products. By creating a work environment that empowers our employees with value and dignity, we are able to create higher quality products for our clients.

But how does an automobile manufacturing system apply to the garment industry?

Simple. The Toyota Manufacturing Process (TMP) is all about eliminating waste to create the most efficient production system possible. Although we’re not in the business of making cars, we are in the business of making our products as quickly and efficiently as possible. Our core values – excellence and love – echo the TMP pillars of continuous improvement and respect for people, which ties together Toyoda’s statement about the correlation between employees and product quality.

Invest in employees → happy employees → employees enjoy and take ownership of their work → employees produce quality products

How do we plan to achieve this?

Taking a page out of Toyota’s handbook, at Purnaa, we integrate the following four principles from the TMP in our manufacturing process:

1. Human Resource Development – the investment in the long-term, transferrable skill development of our employees. At Purnaa, we provide our employees with:

  1. Cross-training in transferable skills and advanced manufacturing techniques

  2. Fair and living wages

  3. Full Time jobs

2. Teamwork

  1. Team Sewing System (this works great in a Nepali context because they so value community!)

  2. Values training

3. Quality Control Standards

  1. Quality checks

  2. Fabric testing

  3. Line checks – done at multiple steps of production

  4. Pre-shipment inspection

4. Eliminate Waste

  1. Environmentally Sustainable fabric sourcing

  2. Just-in-Time (we manufacture only what is ordered)

Why are we applying these principles?

One day a lady came to our company applying for a job. She told us she had been sewing for 6 years on industrial machines and we were excited at the thought of hiring someone with experience. But as we dug a little deeper, we learned she only knew one step of garment production… how to sew an armhole seam. For 6 years, on thousands and thousands of shirts, she had sewn the same seam over and over. Unfortunately, because of her lack of diversified skills, we were unable to hire her. Her lack of skills was the result of working in a factory that employed a standard assembly line production system, maximizing output but at the employee’s cost.

At Purnaa we have a choice on the manufacturing systems we use. Rather than implementing the Standard Line Method (or Chain System), which minimizes workers’ skill diversification, we have integrated the Team Sewing System (TSS). Derived from principles of the Toyota Manufacturing Process, the TSS utilizes teams who are cross-trained to work multiple steps in the production line, maximizing their value as they become skilled in various disciplines instead of just a single one. For us, using a team-oriented process is effective because it provides team leaders with the ability to train in a more timely manner. Because of this, leaders are able to invest more in each employee, focusing on their individual needs and skill levels.

So, what’s the point?

We believe that valued employees make valuable products. Because of this, Purnaa is moving towards a complete and efficient implementation of the TMP principles to produce consistent and quality results, for our employees and our products. When we work to instill dignity and self-worth in our employees, they take ownership of their work.

Over time, their work becomes a reflection of the value they see in themselves and results in top-of-the-line products for our clients!

As a side note: we found this article about Pixar’s implementation of Toyota Principles very interesting!


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