Reacting to Product Problems

Previously we posted on recalls at Toyota and Sony. Recently Toyota announced another large recall. Investor’s Business Daily writes on the topic in: The Ups And Downs Of Doing Product Recalls – Japan-Style:

Kitayama also said Akio Toyoda, grandson of Kiichiro Toyoda, Toyota’s founder, played a key role by opening a direct line to suppliers that had supplied defective car parts. He stressed that quality comes before meeting delivery deadlines.

Interesting. The article also discusses a commitment to zero-defects. I agree with Dr. Deming that this is not the right strategy, but Toyota’s actions around that concept seem reasonable. Many other companies actions around a “zero-defect effort” are not effective in my opinion. See our previous post reacting to Norman Bodek’s post on zero defects. Toyota is doing well but as they say themselves, over and over: Toyota still has plenty of room to improve. The key is to not only say so, but act on it (which I believe they are doing, but the recalls give one indication of the continued need to improve).

Related: Quality and InnovationFord and Managing the Supplier RelationshipCease Mass Inspection for QualityCease Dependence on Inspection

Shinji Kitayama, an analyst at Shinko Securities in Tokyo, stressed that one of the biggest problems was that Toyota hired hundreds of less-experienced temporary factory workers to cut production costs at some plants. Toyota’s new quality control head, Shinichi Sasaki, divided factory workers into teams of four to five people and assigned a veteran leader to each team to teach production know-how. The idea was to check closely for small problems before they became bigger, Kitayama says.

The bottom line, in my opinion? You must improve the system to improve the value to the customer (which includes reducing defects). And you must continually monitor your systems and react when you discover weaknesses (or find new ways to improve the system through PDSA).

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