Treasure Trove

The BPAKS database, initiated in North America, now shares Toyota best practices around the globe

April 17, 2018

Spanning the Globe -- Here's all of the Toyota facilities around the world that contribute to and take advantage of the BPAKS database of best practices.

How do you harness the collective wisdom of thousands of Toyota team members and business partners dispersed across six continents, more than 20 countries and working at dozens of facilities?
Well, a global database created and maintained by the Strategic Business Management group definitely helps.
Best Practices and Kaizen Sharing, or BPAKS for short, is Toyota’s central repository of good ideas. It went live in the wake of the economic downturn of 2008 in hopes of spurring cost reductions and efficiency improvements that could help the company ride out that storm.
Clearly, the automotive industry’s outlook is much brighter now. But that doesn’t mean BPAKS is any less valuable. Just the opposite.
“At the time BPAKS was born, reducing cost was the focus,” says Jason Reid, project general manager of the team that created and now maintains this far-reaching application. “But over the years, it’s grown into something much bigger than that. Today it’s a treasure chest of opportunity that can also lead to improved quality and enhanced safety.”
BPAKS is also distinctive for being an application that started in North America and then spread globally. Before it went live in 2010, Reid says other kaizen databases existed within the organization. But they tended to be local in scope, including some at Toyota Motor Corporation that were in Japanese and difficult for all team members to decipher. By contrast, the majority of BPAKS submissions are in English, which has become the default language of business around the globe.

Sifting for Gold -- BPAKS users can quickly zero in on the information they need using the database's detailed search criteria.

Quality In, Quality Out
To encourage standardization, BPAKS entries must use a template that requires certain fields to be completed. Beyond a basic description, the submitter can attach supporting documents, before and after photos and even video clips to help tell the story. And, of course, the team member filling out the form must provide contact information so their colleagues can follow up if they have questions.
To find them, users can conduct a detailed search across the database, selecting filters for criteria like geographic location, facility type and specific application — as well as conducting keyword searches, akin to Google. Users also set up profiles where they can choose topics that are likely to be relevant to their area of expertise. BPAKS will then automatically alert them whenever a related kaizen is added to the database.
In true Toyota fashion, the system also incorporates quality controls to help verify the data. For example, individual shops within each manufacturing plant have designated BPAKS evaluators tasked with reviewing entries that speak to their specialty.
“It’s about the quality of the data, not just the quantity,” says Bob Matsko, the BPAKS manager on Reid’s team. “It’s a constant challenge. But this database has become the way we do business on the manufacturing side. It has definitely taken root. It’s one of the key tools that many people now use.”
Here’s just one example of what you’ll find in BPAKS: a more efficient way to remove dust and dirt off the exterior of vehicles as they come down the line at Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada in 2017. Before, the plant had two booths set aside for this purpose. Each was manned by two team members who wiped the vehicles by hand. After, that task was handled by an automated tacking unit, allowing the team members to be redeployed elsewhere in the plant. The system cost $40,000, but is projected to save $700,000 annually.

Before and After -- Here's just one example of the kind of information found in BPAKS. Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada, that entered it into the database, anticipates this change will help it save $700,000 annually.

Spanning the Globe
BPAKS was hardly an overnight success. Toyota Europe was the first region to follow North America’s lead. Other regions eventually came on board, encouraged by demos and hands-on training sessions offered by Strategic Business Management’s Wil James, the BPAKS global system administrator.  The big turning point was when TMC adopted BPAKS as its primary kaizen repository in 2015.
Today, Toyota facilities spanning five continents tap into the database daily. That will become six when South Africa follows suit this year.
What’s been the impact? Through February, BPAKS was being used by more than 3,300 team members and it had documented in excess of 8,000 kaizens that have saved Toyota over $250 million. It’s safe to say those numbers will grow.
“That’s the power of continuous improvement,” says Reid. “BPAKS serves as tangible proof that every idea matters and every single improvement counts.”
Want to tap into BPAKS yourself? Just follow this link on My Toolbox.
By Dan Miller

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