Tuesday, February 15, 2011
Lean Manufacturing at Toyota Bangalore..
The concepts I was interested were the following, Inventory control, how Kanbans are used, JIT, multi-item assembly, visual controls on the shopfloor, 5S and gradual shopfloor improvements.
Inventory Policy : When I discussed with the senior manager, I was amazed to learn that there is no material store inside the plant at all. Inventory for Toyota was being held by the vendors. In addition there was only one transport vendor for Toyota who was co-ordinating all just in time replenishments for spare parts and raw materials across the shop floor.. Come rain or shine this transport vendor saw to it that the items were collected from almost 60 different vendors as distant as Haryana and West Bengal and delivered to the Toyota shopfloor in Bidadi, Karnataka every half a day or once every day. On the shop floor I never saw any work-in-process buildup.
Kanbans : On the shopfloor material moves between workstations with the help of Kanbans. On each bin of parts, there is a piece of paper covered in plastic wrapping which has got all details of the item, its code, the assembly in which the part goes, the supplier, the lot size of the part and soon. If the assembly is only from a single source to the subsequent assembly, only one kanban is used, if it from multiple sub-assemblies, two kanbans are used, one authorising withdrawal and another production.
JIT : Just in time production entails that inventory is on the shopfloor only when it is needed and work in process is not built up between workstations. I was told that most of the iitems reach the shopfloor only when they are needed and at that time. TKAP, Toyota Kirloskar Automobile Products, delivers items every half an hour on the shop floor.
Multi-item assembly : Usually in assembly line we see just a model of car being assembled in an assembly line which spreads from one end to the other. I was really in for surprise when I found that the Toyota "U shaped" assembly line was attending to three models at the same time. Fortuner, Innova and Corolla were being assembled in the same line and were at different stages of assembly on the line. The workers were multi-skilled to work on any of these models.
Visual controls on shop floor : At every assembly stations and in the aisle there are many lights of green and red colour which indicates whether the line is up or down. Most of the tools were hanging from the top near the assembly line which makes it easy for the person to locate tools within armsreach. Where precise location was needed, robots were also seen. For example, the point where windshield were placed, robots were doing the job with great precision, applying resin etc..
5S : A place for everything and everything in its place. This is the principle behind 5S. One of the very startling observation was to see orderliness in everything they do. Even the verandah along which people were walking had the lanes on which people were to walk clearly demarcated asking them to keep to the left. On the shopfloor there were dedicated lanes for walking and dedicated areas marked in yellow paint where the forklifts were to rest. No inventory was floating around on the shopfloor.
Toyota Business Practices warrant that any improvement in the processes need to be properly investigated, studied, documented and followed up with dedication. An incremental change which is brought up on the shop floor will take anywhere between one to two weeks to be implemented but it will be done permanently. There is nothing like ad-hoc decisions on the shop floor. What it finally results in is the very high quality of output which comes out.
The one day I spent at Toyota plant, I could grasp many things. It was a great learning experience to learn from the leader. Hope there will be many such experiences more.. In a company employing almost 6000 employees with an annual turnover of app Rs.15,000 crores, with an annual production of 8000 vehicles a month, there are lots more to learn ..
George Easaw Ph.D.
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