I make no secret of my admiration for Taiichi Ohno (see What Do Toyota Manufacturing and Taiichi Ohno Have to Do With E-Filing and Integrated Justice Systems?and I am constantly using his concepts on effective manufacturing principles to illustrate why things work (or don’t work) in courts.

Ohno developed the Toyota Production System (TPS), which defines, identifies and established principles for the management (and elimination) of waste.   None of the individual components are rocket science.   Stepping through the principles, everything makes “head-nodding” sense.

I find these principles particularly pertinent to court operations because they are focused not on changing the basic attributes of the product (for Toyota, vehicles; for courts, judicial outcomes), but rather on managing the processes by which the products are developed, produced, and delivered.   Toyota didn’t attempt to produce “different” cars, and courts, generally speaking, are not attempting to alter the forms of standard judicial outcomes.  What Ohno did was make the processes themselves strategic by striving to produce the same types of vehicles at less cost and with higher quality. 

Surely “less cost – higher quality” certainly ought to resonate with courts.  Indeed, they comprise a major chunk of the business case for court implementation of Enterprise Content Management (ECM).

One of the major aspects of the TPS is its emphasis on the importance of Waste.  TPS distinguishes three Forms of Waste.  

  • Muri: Overburden (pushing a person or a machine beyond his/her/its normal limits);
  • Mura: Inconsistency (disruption and discontinuity resulting from human error);
  • Muda: Elimination of waste (TPS’s final and most encompassing principle, concerning management responsibility for elimination of waste).

Court examples of all three Forms of Waste abound.  How many clerks are assigned to cover phones, fetch files, find documents, and so forth, in addition to their “regular” duties (which, due to budget and staff cuts, have been right-sized to take up exactly 110% of their time)?  That would be Muri. 

Mura, a key step in “Just-In-Time” methodology  covers all actions or circumstances that compromise productivity.  Mura usually traces back to human error.  Some prime examples of Mura in courts that ECM could alleviate include such errors as misfiled documents, lost files and inappropriately routed (or ignored) tasks.

Managers must exercise primary responsibility for Muda in the ongoing and absolute objective of eliminating all waste.  Muri and Muda must be examined to ascertain the underlying causes.  In this analysis, Muda identifies seven categories of waste.  Each of them has insinuated itself into court processes and operations.  Sometimes they are obvious; more often, it takes some work to get to the root causes. 

Muda classifies waste into seven types: 1) Overproduction; 2) Waiting; 3) Transporting; 4) Inappropriate Processing; 5) Inventory; 6) Unnecessary/Excess Motion; and 7) Defects.

Toyota’s track record (so to speak) with cost reduction, quality improvement, and value maximization is both dramatic and well known.   While intended as a manufacturing paradigm, its potential for positive impact on court processes is no less great.   Because court operations and processes are so document-intensive, document management systems must be a central focus of court “Muda” (although I am guessing we in the west won’t use that label!).  And this exercise leads inexorably to the need to implement effective ECM in courts to eliminate the wastes.

Note: In some future posts, I will discuss each of the seven “types of waste” that lurk in court records management processes, with an eye for a) What are they; b) Where are they (sometimes in the open; sometimes hiding); c) How and how much they sap the court’s effectiveness, efficiency, resources (think “budget”), and quality; and d) How effectively implemented ECM can contribute to “The objective of eliminating all waste” – Muda. 



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