Just inTime Systems
The 100 Yen Sushi House is no ordinary sushi restaurant. It is he ultimate showcase of Japanese productivity. The house features an ellipsoid-shaped serving area in the middle of t e room, where three or four cooks were busily0 preparing sushi. Perhaps 30 stools surrounded the serving area. As we took our ~eats at the counters, I noticed something special. There was a conveyor belt going around the ellipsoid service area, like a toy train track. On it I saw plates of sushi. There was every kind of sushi that you can think of-from the cheapest seaweed to the more expensive raw salmon or shrimp dishes. The price was uniform, however, 100 yen per plate. On closer examination, while my eyes were racing to keep up with the speed of the traveling plates, I found that a cheap sea-. weed plate had four pieces, while the more expensive raw salmon dish had only two pieces. I saw a man with eight plates all stacked up neatly. As he got up to leave, the cashier looked over and said. “800 yen, please.” The cashier had no cash register she simply counted the number of plates and then multiplied by 100 yen.The owner’s daily operation is based on a careful analysis of information. The owner has a complete summary of demand information about the different types of sushi plates, and thus knows exactly how many of each type of sushi plate he should prepare and when. Furthermore, the whole operation is based on the repetitive manufacturing principle with appropriate just-in-time and quality control systems. For example, the store has a very limited refrigerator capacity. Thus, the store uses the just-in-time inventory control system. Instead of increasing the refrigeration capacity by purchasing additional refrigeration systems, the owner has an agreement with the fish vendor to deliver fresh fish several times a day so that materials arrive just in time to be used tor sushi making. The inventory cost is, therefore, minimum.The available floor space is for workers and their necessary equipment but no for holding inventory. In the 100 Yen Sushi House, workers and their equipment are positioned so close together that sushi making is passed on hand to hand rather than as independent operations. The absence of walls of inventory allows the owner and workers to be involved in the total operation, from greeting the customer to serving what is ordered. Their tasks are tightly interrelated and everyone rushes to a problem spot to prevent the cascading effect of the problem throughout the work. process. The 100 Yen Sushi House is a labor-intensive operation, which is based mostly on simplicity and common sense rather than high technology, contrary to American perceptions. I was very impressed. As I finished my fifth plate. I saw the same octopus sushi plate going around for about the thirties h use. Perhaps I had discovered the pitfall of the system. So I asked the owner how he takes care of the sanitary problems when a sushi plate goes around aI/ day long, until an unfortunate customer eats it and perhaps gets food poisoning. He bowed with an apologetic smile and said, ·Well, sir, we never let our sushi plates go unsold longer than about 30 minutes.” Then he scratched his head and said. “Whenev6′ one of OU’ employees takes a break, he or she can take off unsold plates of sushi and either eat them or throw them away. We are very serious about our sushi quality.