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Advice / Succeeding at Work / Productivity

Productivity Lessons Anyone Can Learn From the Assembly Line

I bet you think your desk job doesn’t have much in common with a major automobile assembly line. But it turns out, they’re more alike than you think—especially when it comes to how you should go about maximizing your efficiency.

Jamie Bonini, productivity guru at Toyota, manages one of the most efficient manufacturing processes in the industry. He specializes in finding ways to make vehicle production more lean, using the concept of “kaizen”—constantly making small improvements to reduce extraneous motion. “Toyota will scratch at tenths of a second to bring down ‘takt time,’ what it takes to complete a single step in a process,” a Bloomberg Businessweek article recently explains.

With the help of Bloomberg’s Brendan Greely, Bonini recently put his assembly line productivity tactics to the test in the life of an office worker. After following Greely around for two days—analyzing his time, scrutinizing his workspace, and identifying “waste” in his day—Bonini provided some suggestions for doing more with less.

Interestingly enough, the advice Bonini provides may be somewhat counterintuitive to the way we’re used to operating. For instance, instead of batching tasks (collecting them and then saving for later), Bonini suggests that you should aim for a never-ending, constant stream of flow by finishing each task you start. Among his tips, he explains that continuous flow requires organizing your workspace in a particular way to do tasks one-by-one, such as only having necessary supplies in the open to prevent clutter from getting in your way. (You know, like an assembly line would.)

So, if you’re looking for ways to make the most out of your time and resources, consider taking a leaf out of Toyota’s book. As Greely learned, a few simple changes can really turn up the dial on efficiency in your day-to-day.

Photo of assembly line courtesy of Shutterstock.