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Lean manufacturing and the Toyota way

Posted on 25 September 2017

by James Moloney, Head of Design and Technology at Anglican Church Grammar School

While much has been written regarding the educational outcomes resulting from the Hayward Midson redevelopment, the intent of this paper is to highlight improvements and processes established post occupation and how these have transformed resource and class management within the design and technology teaching area.
Design and Technology (DT) subjects require not only teaching and learning spaces that allow for flexible configuration for a variety of teaching modes but additionally, consideration of manufacturing capability. Experience gained prior to the redevelopment of the Midson building demonstrated that the previous ad hoc approach to building management necessitated dramatic change as scant regard to handling of materials and equipment had been contemplated. Lack of coordinated and holistic management of the spaces had resulted in a series of stopgap solutions resulting in short term remedies often negated by staffing, timetabling and curriculum changes.
Furthermore, access to materials and consumables was problematic and limited availability of specialist equipment when combined with timetabling constraints inhibited learning opportunities for students, resulting in high levels of frustration for teaching staff. Therefore, when considering the proposed redevelopment of the Hayward Midson creative precinct an overarching philosophy of ‘any project, any room, any class’ was developed by the Design and Technology faculty as the guiding principle throughout the planning and decision making process.
This approach aimed to ensure that no matter what year level or subject being taught any manufacturing tool, any consumable item or any piece of specialist equipment would be immediately available and ready for use. This simple philosophy proved invaluable throughout the planning of the redevelopment and continues to inform decisions regarding the ongoing fit-out of the Midson learning and manufacturing spaces.   
September 2015 saw the occupation of the refurbished Hayward Midson buildings and signaled the commencement of the planned custom fit-out of the Design and Technology learning spaces. Throughout the initial planning stages of the redevelopment, considerable effort was applied to the pedagogical requirements of the building, however, complementary to this priority meaningful attention was directed to the planning of how the building would be managed as a manufacturing facility. This was significant, as efficient operation of the building  in the sense of materials management, project storage, equipment maintenance and manufacturing processes would minimise time and effort of staff that could be better utilised in curriculum development and teaching practice.  
Previous industry employment developed experience in a variety of manufacturing management approaches, two of these were ‘Lean Manufacturing’ (Holloway & Hall, 1997) and the ‘Toyota Way’ (Liker, 2004) which were identified as practical and efficient models for possible adoption by Churchie. Both of these methods exemplified many positive attributes related to management of manufacturing facilities. Additionally, the Toyota Way establishes a respectful paradigm for staff working in these situations (Liker, 2004). Although not wholly applicable to an educational framework, many of the demonstrated attributes of these systems are advantageous in the Churchie context. It was for these reasons that aspects of these management styles were determined to be the most appropriate for implementation in the newly redeveloped creative precinct.
Essentially, Lean Manufacturing, when applied to the Churchie context, aims to remove inefficiencies throughout the manufacturing process by eliminating unnecessary work while establishing effective utilisation of equipment with non-disruptive maintenance scheduling (Holloway & Hall, 1997). Similarly, while the ‘Toyota Way’ also establishes a framework for operational matters, it prioritises the building of a respectful culture within the organisation, development of relationships with suppliers to ensure thorough understanding of all aspects of processes and develops a learning organisation through relentless reflection and continuous improvement (Liker, 2004).

Outcomes of this approach enable the functioning of the physical building to become automatic, operating in the background with systems implemented to ensure seamless resupply of materials and maintenance of equipment. Furthermore, if implemented effectively, efficient operation is independent of key personnel changes which in organisations can often result in major disruption.  Although a lengthy process, consuming considerable financial and labor resources the ongoing benefits cannot be underestimated. Two years post-occupancy of the Midson building, the majority of the planned enhancements have been completed, however, it must be acknowledged that this is a continuous process that will see ongoing improvements as required.

The significant outcome of this work is a change from what existed prior to the redevelopment where considerable expenditure of teachers’ time was engaged in materials management, kit preparation and general housekeeping. Whereas the Midson learning spaces now see all lesson preparation focused on curriculum and learning. Teachers can confidently go to any room for any lesson with any class and be assured that every required material, consumable, tool or piece of equipment is available and functioning at optimal levels. Improvement in pedagogical practice is now the overriding priority for the Design and Technology faculty. 

As much of these improvements have occurred in the background of the general day-to-day operation of the faculty, it is important to highlight the improvements that have enabled redirection of resources to teaching and learning priorities. Following, in no particular order is an overview of learning space modifications implemented within the Midson building.

The Midson building has two classrooms on the upper floor with the lower floor containing three rooms all of which adjoin large open design lounges furnished with configurable furniture catering for break out activities. Each classroom consists of a 12 m by 8 m space with a third sectioned off with sound minimising glass panels containing all manufacturing equipment. The remaining 8 m by 8 m space has perimeter benches for practical tasks and four large mobile stainless steel benches centrally located. The exception to this is in one of the downstairs manufacturing spaces, which accommodates classes requiring additional manufacturing capability, and as such, is equipped with a larger workshop and wider range of equipment due to the nature of projects undertaken by these classes. The material choice for all modifications was 17 mm form ply as this material is durable, easily accessible and conforms to the current aesthetic of the redevelopment. (Please see Appendix 1 for learning space layout)

Initially, the priority for the manufacturing spaces was to establish routine for students, particularly where safe practice was concerned. Therefore, accessible and highly visible Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) storage for was one of the first additions to be designed and manufactured. After initial instruction, students now automatically go to these storage compartments and select PPE prior to using equipment.


Early in the inhabitation phase, it was revealed that although significant storage capacity was available in manufacturing spaces, it was limited within classroom spaces. To alleviate this issue rolling tables usually stored underneath the perimeter benches were identified as opportunities to increase storage capacity. Modification by hinging the tops and adding internal compartments substantially increased classroom storage. These manage a range of commonly used items including clamps, prototyping materials, stationery, cardboard and other engineering materials. These, routinely restocked, eliminate the need for teacher attention and are immediately available for student and teacher use.
Management of consumable materials such as timber, plastic and plywood has always proved problematic within the Design and Technology faculty and in particular, how to minimise waste and manage sheet material. Previously, centralised material storage required teachers to ensure all materials were distributed and available to each classroom prior to lessons, however, if items were overlooked learning would be disrupted. Therefore, curriculum decisions were made to reduce the physical dimensions of design projects enabling efficient materials management. Crucial to effective management of these materials was the standardisation and purchasing of material, previously 2400 mm by 1200 mm sheets were the norm, presently material is preprocessed to 600 mm by 400 mm ready for use in LASER cutters and enabling storage of material in each manufacturing space.  The exception to this policy is HN51, where a significantly wider range of materials are required and therefore, additional storage capability was designed and manufactured.

Installation of partitions into two of the under bench cupboard spaces allows storage of a wide variety of plastic sheets as well as cardboard and plywood. These compartments allow rapid stocktaking as visual inspection quickly informs support staff of pending shortages, easily rectified during regular maintenance processes.

Furthermore, the addition of two large drawers into a single cupboard is used for off-cuts of both ply and plastics, which students access for materials prior to cutting full sheets. This system ensures waste minimisation and the availability of a full range of materials eliminating the need for teachers to allocate time in materials selection for classes. 

Each manufacturing space has a range of equipment, some requiring storage of fixtures, specialist tools and cutters as well as access to computers. Two of these include the Computer Numerical Control (CNC) milling machine and the LASER cutter. A computer shelving system, tool storage drawers and material storage all combine in these units.

Furthermore, extraction pumps attached to the underside of these benches clears floors allowing ease of cleaning and maximum efficiency

Although a wide variety of tools is available in each manufacturing area via tool cabinets, individual year level projects often necessitate the use of several specialist tools and materials. This is resolved by installation of storage compartments containing a toolbox stocked individually for Years 7 to 10.

Additionally, these units house a tall, narrow cupboard for a pendant drill, which previously required time to assemble and disassemble. Although not significant, it was inconvenient and did subtract from teaching time and therefore, storage of the fully assembled pendant drill with a mounting stand improves efficiency. Additionally, two drawers storing a bench top scanner operable from within the drawer and general teaching supplies such as pens, white board markers, cleaners, staplers, overhead cameras and computer battery chargers are easily accessible.

Bench protectors, utilised when students are using a range of adhesives and soldering irons, are stored in each room and are easily accessible by students and staff. These are replaced regularly, minimise maintenance and extend the life of the classroom benches. Below these compartments, support fixtures used in conjunction with strip heaters are available for class use.

Similarly, permanent mounting of portable battery chargers is included in each room to ensure freshly charged equipment is always on hand.
Housing for 3D printers is achieved via installation of additional tool cabinets and a number of small cabinets were manufactured to mount a range of equipment. Numerous other modifications have included; manufacture of small spray paint booths, roofing an external loading bay establishing personal teacher aide workshop space, under-vacuum former drawer storage, soldering iron and stand storage, clamp racks as well as polishing motor stands.

Furthermore, systems are established allowing clear lines of communication between teaching staff and teacher aides whose roles focus on material processing and resupply as well as maintenance of equipment. Thorough record keeping of purchases and supplier contacts support these systems ensuring key staffing transitions can occur with minimal disruption to the operation of the building.  
Feedback from staff and students alike confirm the positive nature of these modifications with several external contractors remarking on the innovative nature of the improvements incorporated into the building and to equipment, additionally, they have stated that they have not witnessed similarly quality facilities in any other school’. Further affirmation has come from Dr. Elizabeth Hartnell-Young, Honorary Fellow at the University of Melbourne who commented that ‘the teachers at Churchie are not only teachers of design, but are practitioners of design’ verifying the success of the modifications made to date.
Finally, it is appropriate to highlight the contribution of all Design and Technology faculty staff to the efficient design and manufacture of modifications in the building. In particular, teacher Aide Mr Peter Narloch has been instrumental in the realisation of the concepts developed by all members of faculty and whose effort is greatly appreciated and critical to the success of the project. 



Holloway, L.E., & Hall, A. (1997, August 1). Principles of Lean manufacturing. Sage Journals. Retrieved from
Liker, J. K. (2004). The Toyota Way: 14 Management Principles from the World's Greatest Manufacturer. Retrieved from LeanBlitz :


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