Can Toyota Kata Revitalize the Lean Journey of Hilti Italian Warehouse in Carpiano

Alberto Pogliaghi

Student thesis: Master thesis


The departure point of this master thesis is a topic widely discussed in the academic literature that is the missing sustainability of the advantages gained with the implementation of the lean approach. Indeed until today most of the companies’ efforts were directed towards implementing lean tools to improve operational processes while placing little, if none, attention to the people who actually improve these processes. (Hines et al., 2008) As a result, the great majority of the companies failed in their reverse engineering efforts because they focused their attention on the wrong aspects. (Rother, 2010) They all missed to understand that the reason for Toyota’s adaptability does not lie in its tools and techniques since “Toyota’s techniques will not work properly without Toyota underlying logic”. (Rother, 2010) Instead, Toyota’s advantage is embedded in its people skills and competencies (Rother, 2014), or better in the systematic and scientific approach created to support the development of its people’s potential and fined tuned over the decades. (Rother, 2014) This is where the Toyota Kata concept comes into play. Toyota Kata is a relatively new topic as it was introduced by Mike Rother in 2009 with the book Toyota Kata: Managing People for Improvement, Adaptiveness and Superior Results. Nonetheless it immediately gained relevance and popularity among academics and practitioners. This is exactly the case of the Hilti Group where, before the implementation of Toyota Kata at Carpiano warehouse, there was a widespread lack of awareness on the concept. Even so, it was chosen as focus topic for the prestigious Lean Summit held in Schaan during the 14th of September. These, together with the passion for lean, are the reasons that brought to the selection of Toyota Kata as the central subject of this master thesis. In particular in this thesis it is discussed how Toyota Kata was implemented at Carpiano warehouse and what were its major impacts on the lean journey started by the Italian distribution center in the late 2011. The objective of this investigation is that of providing a “Best Practice”, anchored on the theoretical frameworks proposed by the literature review, on how to apply this intangible and complex topic in order to support its diffusion into other realities of the Hilti Group. Lastly, it was found that there are some gaps between theory and practice even though the implementation of Toyota Kata at Carpiano warehouse was mostly founded on academic frameworks. Since the knowledge on the topic was scarce within the Hilti Group, the local management team and, above all, the Global Lean team mostly relied on theoretical frameworks proposed by Mike Rother. Therefore it is believed that the following topics can be generalized with regards to the implementation approach selected at Carpiano warehouse:  Toyota Kata is a methodology suited for those companies that are willing to invest in and develop the leadership and problem solving skills of their employees so that these are empowered to be the active promoters of the continuous improvement process at shop floor level. On the contrary this methodology is not appropriate for those firms that need a tool to quickly boost performance of a single process or of the entire organization.  Toyota Kata touches several strategic elements of lean that deal with culture and behavior. A company will have to invest time and resources and provide an adequate level of commitment to the initiative otherwise the risk is that of giving up at the first roadblock. Under this point of view a strong vision can guide people towards the right direction if this is then effectively communicated and deployed at shop floor level.  The best way to internalize Toyota Kata is through the continuous practice of its patterns. It is hence essential for a company to provide not only an intense in-class training, but also an adequate period of time and a safe environment for the repetition of this methodology on simple topics in order to routinize its structure.

EducationsMSc in Supply Chain Management , (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2016
Number of pages162
SupervisorsKim Sundtoft Hald