Saturday, February 02, 2013

Toyota visit on 1 Feb 2013.. Ten points to some great learning ..

I happened to visit Toyota at Bidadi, Bangalore yesterday, 1 Feb 2013 to assess the progress of my MBA PG students doing internship at Toyota from Dec 5 '12 until Feb 10 '13. The visit also helped me to get the feedback from Toyota Engineers / Managers on what they feel are the grey areas we need to address regarding Industry Internship programmes and help the students do a finer job.

While interacting with students, some points struck me with great force and I shall explain them here for others. These are ther same ones which we happen to read in either the Toyota way, Toyota talent or any other Toyota related article / book. You also need to realise that this is the impression of Toyota culture after just seven weeks of exposure to the Toyota way of working among the MBA students. We can just imagine how impressive are some of the characteristic traits of the Toyota culture !!

Point 1. The discipline the students have imbibed from Toyota is a lesson of a life time. Discipline makes no job or peak unsurmountable. It builds a level of confidence that cultivates a culture to slowly tackle attack the problem or goal, how hard and tough it be.

Point 2. Hard work and not smart work counts in Toyota. One can get to understand the Toyota culture and its benefits only by immersing oneself in it and interacting with others on the shop floor and outside for long periods of time. Toyota employees at Bidadi Bangalore on an average spend 12 - 13 hours on the job daily for six days a week.

Point 3. Planning. Some body was telling me the other day, TOYOTA has three reasons for its success, one is PLANNING, second is PLANNING and the third one is also PLANNING. They plan even to the nearest hour and minute of the day .. My students were taken aghast when in the second week of their training they were asked to plan for the remaining period of their internship for every hour and minute of the day, six days a week. This insistence on PLANNING, has made them realise the importance of utilising time effectively and productively, making them more mature and wiser in the process..

Point 4. Practicing Safety  : While crossing roads, Toyota has a very special way of doing it. With your index finger point to the left and follow it with your head, then to the right and finally if the road is clear, point it straight, to cross the road. Safety as a way of life is imbibed in all actions and processes on the shop floor and outside.

Point 5. The great care and concern shown by Toyota employees to others who are learning. Hand holding employees with great care. It is a great Learning Organisation. They encourage learning at all levels. Only Learning can bring in excellence at all levels, one of the basic tenets of a Lean Organisation.

Point 6. There are no great specialists on the shop floor nor great individuals. But Toyota believes in making great individuals out of ordinary skilled people taken from the surrounding areas. There are no great specialists, but very talented and able multi skilled workers.

Point 7. The total absence of any politics on the shop floor makes the environment very cordial to personal growth and enrichment.

Point 8. There is no demarcation between workers and Management staff. They even have food from the same mess hall on two floors. The camaradere on the shop floor is something to be learned.

Point 9. Processes are fixed and rigid, one cannot change it without getting sanction from the highest authorities, sometimes in Japan. The need to stick to fixed processes and procedures ensures that deviations are practically nil and thus compliance and quality of the output is very high.

Point 10. The Management staff and executives are about 70% of the time found to be engaged in meetings and discussions, striving to arrive at consensus, than confrontation and conflict. The good point in this is while encouraging employees to think critically and improve the process, there is no negative energy, only positive energy floating around on the shop floor.


1 comment:

  1. George, I have comments and questions on Points 2 and 9.

    Hard work and smart work aren't necessarily mutually exclusive. When one is hard at work, one can often miss the bigger picture, especially since focus is intensely local. This ties into Point 9 about processes. Processes don't necessarily have to be fixed (inflexible). They have to be consistent and repeatable. Very often, improvements to processes come in small, continuous, incremental changes (the Japanese management philosophy of Kaizen). Who best to know how to improve something than the people doing the job? Yes, a supervisor overseeing the job is also in a position to see inefficiencies and suggest improvements.

    Processes also have to be flexible. That has been the greatest success of Japanese automobile manufacturers, when compared to their American counterparts. About a decade ago, Ford had a major problem with their Explorer SUV. There were many recalls to vehicles that was forced upon them by the government. Ford was aware of the issue at least a good two years before the official recall. They knew what the solution to the problem was, but their manufacturing processes were not nimble enough to adapt to the change in specification and design that would be required. Contrast that with manufacturing processes at Japanese automobile plants. Every plant has an assembly line that is capable of producing more than one model of car, often of different specifications and sizes. Their manufacturing process is flexible enough to handle such a requirement. Such refinement comes only through continuous process appraisal, re-evaluation, improvement and modification.

    These principles have been adopted at various other manufacturing facilities by other countries and industries. For instance, Nokia's manufacturing processes have been refined to the point where they can manufacture all their products at any of their plants worldwide. They only outsource manufacture of technologies that they can afford to lose. Even when they do outsource, their managers visit the foreign plants to observe the processes in place in those factories to see if there is anything that they can adopt back home.


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