Experience Kaikaku, Day 3: The Thinking Behind TPS

Toyota posted a 34% rise in third-quarter net profit, clearing $3.34 billion in the quarter ended Dec. 31, 2005. This hit the news just about as we were finishing our tours of Toyota Kamigo and Tsutsumi plants. It’s easy to copy what you see, and fail. U.S. companies touted as Lean and in bankruptcy have proven that. This is because you copy only what’s happening on the surface without building in the thinking process into the people who work within your organization.
Kaizen mindset by all management. It’s never “ok”. It is never good enough even if the factories are busy and you are making a lot of money. Here are several key concepts that Toyota makes very clear when you walk through their exhibition hall, lavishly renovated last year.
– Harmony of people and machines
– Harmony of the company and the environment
It was unstated, but “harmony of the company and society” was another one evident in their social responsibility statements and environmental work. Chariman Okuda’s words last year that Toyota should raise prices and give GM some “breathing room” are evidence of the same kind of very big picture thinking.
There were videos teaching Jidoka, kanban, andon, suggestion system and other practical aspects of TPS in the exhibition hall. What’s the thinking behind each one? In Toyota’s words JIT, Jidoka, and their production philosophy is all about respect for people and never-ending kaizen.
There was also an amazing diorama (reduced scale model) of the factory assembly line. I took photos of this model, an actual miniature assembly line (which moves), which I will share below:
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This picture shows the “raku raku chair” which is an employee kaizen idea to eliminate wasteful and unsafe motion of getting in and out of the car:
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Here’s another photograph of the diorama showing the material replenishment tuggers as well as a display board above the aisle for visual management of line status:
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If you want to see the real thing, you’ll have to come with us.
We were going to visit the Motomachi plant, but there was a last minute change of plans because trouble in the paint line had shut down the assembly line. It would have been fun to see how the managers and engineers were responding to the problems in the paint shop, but alas, this was not to be. Toyota did not have the excess inventory in the system to prevent the factory shutting down.
One thing that struck us is that our host from Toyota told us that they consider 97% to 98% performance better than 100%. If you achieve 100% you will not see the problems. It is better not to be perfect so you can see opportunities to get better. If you aren’t stretching your system you will not see it fail by 2% to 3% and find where you still need to improve it. If you get to 100% and think you’ve won, be careful – the best in the world aims for 98%.