YKK Stories

2018-03-19 Issue 39 Fundamental Behavior 12 Seek Improvement In Everything

February 19, 2019
Author: YKK
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In 1984, when I was in high school, I was a member of a golf course grounds crew (think of the movie ‘Caddyshack,’ except not funny). We mowed. A lot. Every Wednesday, four of us would start at the first tee and mow around every tree, going from hole to hole as a mower gang of four. We would do this all day Wednesday and part of Thursday. This schedule had been honored by the grounds crews at this course for decades. One day, one of the guys realized we were spending a lot of time walking as we leapfrogged past each other. He suggested we break into two teams, with team 1 starting at the first tee and team 2 starting at the 18th green going backwards. With the added incentive of competition to beat the other team to the middle, we found we could finish the chore in less than a day. This was a small change in the greater scheme of things, but it was a proud moment for our crew.

Our founder, Tadao Yoshida, spoke about ‘paper thin effort,’ which challenges us to try to make a little improvement every day. As he explained, after many days of such this exercise, even if our daily progress is very small, after a span of time we will look back and see significant improvement from where we were. This concept is as beautiful in its simplicity as it is challenging to maintain over a long period of time. I see many of you throughout the region who are so tuned into this kaizen practice that it is second nature to you, and this is yet another reason why you make YKK so strong in the marketplace.

Our founder emphasized that this effort to continuously improve is a lifelong practice, and there is no ‘final’ goal, especially in the business world. One of the greatest examples of this can be seen in the Total Productive Maintenance (‘TPM’) process. In this process, interdisciplinary teams are continuously selecting areas to study in order to find new ways to improve and to create new efficiencies. Some facilities, like our fastening plants in Macon, have been engaged in this practice for years and have made it part of their DNA. I am also pleased that other facilities in the region have adopted it and are finding ways to make it part of their regular workday. The TPM process offers a proven structure and framework we can all follow to maintain that focus on daily improvement that Tadao Yoshida was talking about. Please look around your workplace this week. I bet you can find at least one area in which we can improve. If a gang of knuckleheads from Goshen, Kentucky can do it, I bet you can too.


Jim Reed
YKK Corporation of America