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Brike: Refining Production for People With Disability

By September 28, 2022October 20th, 2023No Comments

In April of 2021, we engaged the Toyota Production System Support Centre (TSSC) to help us develop the skills and resources needed to manufacture as much of the Brike as possible on-site.

This process began with the TSSC breaking down the manufacturing process into smaller, bite size pieces. These smaller steps were then assessed to see how difficult the tasks were, and were then given to supported team members to work on with trainers and Toyota team members.

Supported Team Member using an aid to build the Brike.

Looking at production differently

During this stage, it became clear to the production team that they needed to look differently at how they approach breaking down these tasks. Supported team members include people with physical disabilities, intellectual disabilities, and neurodivergence, so each task needed to be adapted to make the processes as user-friendly as possible.

The Toyota team helped Brite’s production team to create a series of jigs and aids to make some of these tasks more physically accessible by team members with physical disabilities or mobility issues.

A large part of this process also included a huge mental shift from the production team making the changes they think will help the supported team members, to a far more collaborative process. The production team worked through each task with the supported team members, allowing them to raise some of the issues they were having with the process, and opening up the discussion of what they thought would help them. Part of this included removing some of the internal judgement required to do a particular task, allowing less room for interpretation.

The challenge: sorting spokes

The team realised that “simple” tasks such as “separate four groups of nine spokes” should really be broken down even more. If a supported team member is unable to count, gets their numbers mixed up, or loses concentration how else can this task be approached?

A cardboard box template for sorting spokes sits next to a Brike wheel as it is being built.

The solution: creating a visual template

The solution for this task was to create a template from a cardboard box with groups of nine holes that the supported team member could place the spokes into to have a clear visual representation of when they had sorted the correct amount of spokes

The challenge: putting screws in place

Another task that required the team to remove some of the judgement needed by the supported team members involved placing bolts in the correct holes. If the instructions read “place the bolt in the space second from the left” there is still a fair amount of judgement that would need to be made to complete this task. What if a supported team member had difficulties in knowing left from right? Which way should the parts face when determining this? Does this mean the second hole on the left, or two spaces in from the first hole on the left? What happens if a bolt is placed in the wrong hole?

The solution: creating a physical template

The solution for this task was to create a magnetic guide which would block the holes that didn’t need bolts in them. This way there would be little room for interpretation, taking away the stress of decision making.

Disability does not define ability

One of the biggest obstacles the production team faced was removing our own judgement of what our supported team could and couldn’t do. The team initially grouped tasks into levels of difficulty, and assigned these to supported team members based on their preconceived ability. Many of our supported team members, however, completely smashed the preconceived ability levels our production team had.

In many cases, our supported team members were able to achieve additional tasks than what was expected of them. One of our supported team members quickly progressed through the tasks we had given, and asked “what’s next?”. The production team gave him a task that many of our production team members had struggled to complete, and allowed him to try over and over again to complete the difficult task. He persevered and eventually was able to complete the task – and he was able to recreate how he completed it over and over again.

Redefining work for people with disability

The Brike project is about more than creating an e-bike for people with disability – it is about showcasing how we can change the processes used in the workplace to allow people with disability to thrive. We are always looking for new ways to create meaningful work for our supported team members. You can find more information about the Brike project and our advanced technology services here.

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