What Does the Automobile Industry And Healthcare Have In Common?

Nursing is a famously human profession. It focuses on the human touch, human interaction, and the physical failings of simply being in human bodies. For hundreds of years, nurses have been seen as healers and helpers. Considering all this, it might surprise you to know that healthcare is pickup up a few helpful hints from the automobile industry. Keep reading for some insight into how innovations in vehicle production has led to some great strategies in healthcare.

Get Lean

Lean manufacturing is a “systematic manufacturing method used for eliminating waste within the manufacturing system.” In other words, the lean method refers to having minimal waste during the manufacturing process. This raises efficiency and productivity while reducing excess materials.

The method was developed by Toyota and was devised as a way to maximize output while increasing customer satisfaction. Essentially, it’s a “win-win” situation when operated correctly.


A commonly used term in lean manufacturing, jidoka is a derivative of a couple of Japanese words that now means something like “autonomation.” It’s a bit of a mixture between autonomous and automation and can be a bit hard to understand. Basically, the concept is that there’s a bit of automation with the human touch.

Still having a hard time understanding? The word is most often used to refer to when a process is stopped automatically if something goes wrong during production. Thus, the process is automatically stopped but still requires the human touch to fix the problem before production can continue. Picture a factory machine that words automatically. Production that uses jidoka will have a safeguard that makes the machine stop by itself if there’s a mistake. Then a human can fix it and let it go automatically again.

Just in Time

The second major concept in lean manufacturing is that of JIT, or “Just in Time.” This method is used to lower costs while simultaneously increasing the efficiency of production. The concept was created when the founder of Toyota Motor Company was late for a train. After some thinking, he realized just how important being right on time was for production as well as transportation. Basically, JIT means that materials arrive just when they are needed, no earlier and no later. They are then used and sent off immediately. Ideally, there will be no extra inventory sitting idly anywhere.

Lean Manufacturing and Healthcare

In 2002, the Virginia Mason Production System was created as the first healthcare system to use Jidoka and Just in Time as leading concepts. However, instead of new automobiles being the end product demanding efficiency and customer satisfaction, patient care was seen as the “product.”

The VMPS focused on quality control at every stage of care and treatment. Indeed, every step of the way is examined and evaluated for efficiency and quality. Because each step is seen as vital, there is a much more open style of communication, both between supervisors and employees, and providers and patients. The lean manufacturing method has thus been successfully implemented in healthcare to ensure satisfaction and quality treatment.

However, it’s not just medical care that is implementing this method. The NHS Foundation Trust began integrating the VMPS into their company, a mental health trust. In 2011, they received the Royal College of Psychiatrists award for being the Mental Health Provider of the Year. This is largely due to their dedication to bringing efficiency and customer satisfaction to the forefront of care.

Final Thoughts

Implementing new methods of operation into any company or facility is a difficult task. However, the lean manufacturing method, with its accompanying concepts of jidoka and Just in Time, has proven to be a worthwhile and effective strategy to include in healthcare ventures. With the right combination of autonomous quality control at every stage of care and a focus on patient satisfaction, “lean” offers a great new way to bring efficiency to the world of healthcare.