Posts about Toyota

Toyota Understands Robots are Best Used to Enhance the Value Employees Provide

Toyota has always seen robotics as a way to enhance what staff can do. Many USA executives think of robotics as a way to reduce personnel. Toyota wants to use the brainpower of employees to continually improve the organization. Toyota wants to free people for monotonous or dangerous work to let them use their minds.

Humans Steal Jobs From Robots at Toyota

Humans are taking the place of machines in plants across Japan so workers can develop new skills and figure out ways to improve production lines and the car-building process.

“We cannot simply depend on the machines that only repeat the same task over and over again,” Kawai said. “To be the master of the machine, you have to have the knowledge and the skills to teach the machine.”

Kawai, 65, started with Toyota during the era of Taiichi Ohno, the father of the Toyota Production System envied by the auto industry for decades with its combination of efficiency and quality. That means Kawai has been living most of his life adhering to principles of kaizen, or continuous improvement, and monozukuri, which translates to the art of making things.

“Fully automated machines don’t evolve on their own,” said Takahiro Fujimoto, a professor at the University of Tokyo’s Manufacturing Management Research Center. “Mechanization itself doesn’t harm, but sticking to a specific mechanization may lead to omission of kaizen and improvement.”

We need more companies to learn from the executives at Toyota. They show real respect for people. They are not focused on how much they can extract from the corporate treasury to build themselves castles at the expense of other employees, customers and stockholders as far too many USA executives are.

Toyota has been extremely innovative in investing in robotics as human assistants (partially this is due to the extreme demographic problems Japan faces): Toyota Develops Thought-controlled WheelchairToyota’s Partner RobotToyota Winglet – Personal Transportation Assistance.

Related: Webcast on the Toyota Development ProcessDon’t Hide Problems in ComputersAkio Toyoda’s Message Shows Real Leadership

The Market Discounts Proven Company Leadership Far Too Quickly

Developing a strong executive leadership culture is not a short term effort. It isn’t based on one person. It almost never deteriorates quickly. Yet markets continually overact to minor blips on the long term success of companies. I think this is mainly due to a failure to appreciate systems and a failure to appreciate variation along with plenty of other contributing factors.

The market’s weakness does provide investment opportunities. Though taking advantages of them is much more difficult than spotting a general weakness. While excellent management almost never becomes pitiful overnight (regardless of how often talking heads would have you believe) business can change very quickly due to rapidly changing market conditions. Avoiding the purchases when the underlying business has sustained a significant blow that excellent management will deal with but which will reduce the value of the enterprise going forward is key to taking advantage of the market’s silly overreaction to bad news (or even calling things “bad news” that are not actually bad just not as awesome as some were hoping for).

My positive opinion of Toyota’s management has continued for a long time. A few years ago an amazing number of people were all excited about the “decline of Toyota” and wrote about how Toyota’s ways had to change. I wrote at the time was this is needless hysteria and if Toyota just focused a bit more on applying the Toyota’s management methods they would be in great shape. The problems were due to Toyota’s mistakes in practicing the Toyota Production System not in a weakness of those practices.

Looking at a chart of Toyota’s stock price from 2007 to today it peaks at about $137 in January 2007 and bottoms at $58 in early 2009 and now is at $96. Toyota’s stock price has been priced richly due to respect for management and consistently strong cash flow. As it fell below $75 there you no longer had to pay a premium for excellent management, but that management was still there. I like getting bargains when I buy stocks. One of the things I have learned I am too focused on bargains and I should be more willing to accept less of a bargain to get great management systems – so I have adjusted, and have improved my results. When I can get a great bargain and great management it is wonderful, though sadly a rare occurrence. Toyota’s price now seems reasonable, but not a huge bargain.

The market continually gets overly excited by either actual problems or perceived problems. I wrote about this happening with Netflix 2 years ago. Netflix made some mistakes and faced some tough business issues. The evidence of sound, sensible, effective management vastly outweighed the evidence for management failure – yet there were hundreds of articles about the pitiful failure of Netflix management.

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Long Term Thinking with Respect for People

Toyota nearly went bankrupt near 1950 and had to lay off a third of their employees. A huge focus of the Toyota Production System as envisioned by Taiichi Ohno was to secure the long term success of the company. The priority of doing so is easier to see when you respect people and are in danger of witnessing the destruction of their careers.

photo of John Hunter with a walking stick

I can’t find the quote (maybe Jon Miller, or someone else, can provide one), but I recall one along the lines of the first priority of management is providing long term viability of the company (my sense is this is first due to the respect of the workers and also for all the other stakeholders). The respect for people principle requires executive put the long term success of employees at the top of their thinking when making decisions for the company. I don’t believe it is a ranked list I believe there are several things right at the top that can’t be compromised (respect for people, safety of society, support for customers…).

This means innovating (Toyota Management System, Toyota Prius, Toyota Robots, Lexus brand, etc.) and seeking growth and profit with long term safety that does not risk the failure of the company. And it means planning for the worst case and making sure survivability (without layoffs etc.) is nearly assured. Only when that requirement is met are risks allowed. You do not leverage your company to put it at risk of failure in dire economic conditions even if that would allow you to be more profitable by various measures today. And you certainly don’t leverage just to take out big paychecks for a few short term thinkers.

The economic situation today is extremely uncertain. The whole eurozone financial situation is very questionable. The government debt burden in the USA and Japan is far too high (and of course Europe). China is still far from being a strong economy (they are huge, fast growing and powerful but it is still fairly fragile and risky).

The failures in the current financial system have not been addressed. Band-aids were applied to provide welfare to the largest 30 financial institutions in the form of hundreds of billions or trillions in aid. The system was left largely untouched. It is hard to imagine a more textbook example of failing to fix the causes and just treating the symptoms. This leaves a huge financial risk poised to cause havoc.

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Lean Manufacturing and the Toyota Production System

In this post I explore my thought about what lean (lean manufacturing, lean thinking…) means. The way I think about it is that lean manufacturing sprung from Toyota. It seems to me the lean manufacturing name was meant to capture the entire Toyota Way. Capturing the whole of what that encompasses isn’t possible in 1 or 2 or even 10 books so it wasn’t done completely.

To me the difference between lean manufacturing described early on by Womack and Jones and the Toyota Way was more about what can be captured and conveyed than about an intentional creation of “lean” ways that are different than Toyota ways.

The question is further complicated by what happens with any management idea of any popularity: the using of the name with all sorts of watered down and even just plain not-lean implementations. So much of what is called “lean” is not the Toyota Production System (TPS), it isn’t even lean.

It seems to me today there is no real accepted authority for what is lean. LEI is good. Some people might say they should be the arbiter but they are not in any way I know of.

Then too, over time any organization of people changes. So what Toyota does today isn’t exactly what Taiichi Ohno would say they should be doing. Even the Toyota Way can be ignored by Toyota. And Ohno certainly wouldn’t think standing still was the answer. Just like Deming; Kiichiro, Sakichi and Shoichiro Toyoda; Ohno expected the management system itself to continually improve. And just like Deming, they would expect the implementation in a different organization (different system) to be different.

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Looking at Auto Manaufacturing in the USA

America’s Dirty War Against Manufacturing

Bob Lutz, the former head of GM, says it was neither uncompetitive wages nor unions that drove the Big Three into decline. It was a management with its eye focused on the bottom line and the short term.

That sentiment should be familiar to students of Deming (it is one of Deming’s 7 deadly diseases). It is sad that this bad management practices, short-term thinking, continues to do harm several decades later. Hopefully we can do better in the next few decades.

retiree health care and pensions — burdens that are borne by society, not manufacturing plants, in every other advanced country. That disparity, the result of policy decisions made in Washington rather than wages negotiated by the United Auto Workers, was the source of most of the labor-cost advantage enjoyed by foreign companies.

The excessive health care costs in the USA, another of Deming’s 7 deadly diseases, has continued to get worse every year since he classified it as one. The damage that the failed health care system in the USA does to the USA is enormous.

Related: Manufacturing Skills Gap or Management Skills Gap?Manufacturing in the USA, and Why Organizations Often Don’tBig Failed Three, Meet the Enlightened Eight

The Toyota Way – Two Pillars

Toyota is receiving plenty of criticism now, much of it for good reason. There is also a large amount of psychology involved. From what I have seen, the insurance companies still see better claims history (fewer and lower cost claims) against Toyota than other manufacturers. And there is another strain that seems to enjoy criticizing what has been praised. Toyota does need to improve. But that is improvement of the existing management system, not a need to radically change the management of the company.

I think Toyota, even with the problems, is a fantastic example of a very well managed company. Yet even with all the study of lean manufacturing even basic ideas are overlooked. For example, the two main pillars of the Toyota way are “continuous improvement” and “respect for people.” For all of us, it is valuable to refocusing on core principles. We are too often looking for the next new idea.

This is one way of looking at the pillars of the Toyota Production System, from the Toyota Technical Center – Austrailia

Image of Toyota's pillars of management: respect for people and continuous improvement

Continuous Improvement means that we never perceive current success as our final achievement. We are never satisfied with where we are and always improve our business by putting forth our best ideas and efforts: we are keen to create better alternatives, question our accomplishments and investigate future definitions of success.

There are three building blocks shaping our commitment to Continuous Improvement:

1. Challenge – we form a long term vision, meeting challenges with courage and creativity to realize our dreams;
2. Kaizen – we improve our business operations continuously, always driving for innovation and evolution
3. Genchi Genbutsu – we go to the source to find the facts to make correct decisions, build consensus and achieve goals.

Respect For People refers to our own staff as well as the communities and stakeholder groups that surround us and we are part of. We respect our people and believe the success of our business is created by individual efforts and good teamwork.

Respect For People is translated in:

1. Respect – we respect others, make every effort to understand each other, take responsibility and do our best to build mutual trust
2. Teamwork – we stimulate personal and professional growth, share the opportunities of development and maximize individual and team performance.

These elements combined define our corporate DNA, provide a way of operating that is recognised by each and every Toyota-member around the globe and enables us to sustain our success in the future.

Back to Basics for Toyota by Akio Toyoda

When my grandfather brought Toyota into the auto business in 1937, he created a set of principles that has always guided how we operate. We call it the Toyota Way, and its pillars are “respect for people” and “continuous improvement.” I believe in these core principles. And I am convinced that the only way for Toyota to emerge stronger from this experience is to adhere more closely to them.

While recent events show Toyota obviously needs to improve, that has been true all along (it is just more obvious lately). Some may see this as an indication that these lean manufacturing ideas based on Toyota’s practices are no better than other management practices. I don’t believe this. I feel just as strongly about the value of lean management as ever. I think that the recent events show you that no matter how well an organization in managed there is plenty of room to improve. Toyota never was close to perfection. They have much to improve, but they are still one of the best managed companies in the world.

My comments in 2005:

I think the instances of such failures are just a sign that even Toyota still has quite a bit to improve. I think this announcement likely is a result of common cause variation (it is the natural result of the current system). The natural result (of the system) is not that they have this particular failure, but that this recall is consistent with the % of vehicles that required a recall of this general character. I believe they are getting better over time but they still have a long way to go. With a result based on common cause you want to look at the entire system when designing an improvement plan not at the root cause of the seat belt issue. See Responding to Variation online and the book, Forth Generation Management, by Brian Joiner.

Related: Toyota Stops Lines – Lots of LinesAkio Toyoda’s Message Shows Real LeadershipDeming CompaniesRespect for People Does Not Mean No Criticism

And my comments in 2007:

I don’t agree that they need to rethink their purpose in life (I have a feeling that is taken out of context). They need to maintain and maybe even increase their commitment to their purpose in life.

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Toyota’s Journey to Lean Software Development

Toyota’s journey from Waterfall to Lean software development by Henrik Kniberg

Toyota builds cars (duh). In the past that didn’t involve much software, and the little software that was needed was mostly developed by suppliers and embedded in isolated components. Toyota assembled them and didn’t much care about the software inside. But “The importance of automatic electronic control system has been increasing dramatically year by year” said Ishii-san.

A modern car is pretty much a computer on wheels! In a hybrid car about half of the development cost is software, it contains millions of lines of code as all the different subsystems have to integrate with each other. He mentioned that a Lexus contains 14 million lines of code, comparable to banking and airplane software systems. Ishi-san concluded that “Therefore Toyota needs to become an IT company”.

Most of Toyota’s ideas about how to do Lean software development resonated well with me. My feeling was that they are on the right track.

One thing bothered me though – the extreme focus on detailed metrics. I agree with the value of visualization, standardization, and data-driven process improvement – but only if used at a high level. My feeling was that Toyota was going to far. They say engineer motivation is critical, but how motivating is it to work in an organization that plans and measures everything you do – every line of code, every hour, every defect, how many minutes it takes to do an estimate, etc?

via: Justin Hunter

Related: Toyota IT OverviewToyota Canada CIO on Genchi Genbutsu and KaizenLean Software DevelopmentMy First Trip to Japan by Peter ScholtesToyota IT for Kaizen

Toyota Stops Lines – Lots of Lines

The practice of stopping (either the machine automatically detecting a problem and stopping or a person stopping) the line when a problem is detected is part of Jidoka. Jidoka is also highlighting and making problems visible. Jidoka and Just in Time are the two pillars of the Toyota Production System. Today Toyota practiced Jidoka on a large scale: Toyota Halts Sales of Eight Models After Recall

Toyota Motor, still struggling to resolve a problem with accelerator pedals, said Tuesday it would temporarily stop selling and building eight models in the American market, including the popular Camry and Corolla sedans

“This action is necessary until a remedy is finalized,” Robert S. Carter, a Toyota group vice president, said in a statement. “We’re making every effort to address this situation for our customers as quickly as possible.”

Toyota said it would immediately stop selling the Camry, Corolla and Avalon sedans, Matrix wagon, RAV4 crossover, Tundra pickup, and Highlander and Sequoia sport utility vehicles. It will also stop building those models the week of Feb. 1. All of the vehicles are assembled in the United States or Canada, at a total of five plants.

The models affected accounted for more than a million sales in 2009, 57 percent of Toyota’s American total for the year.

The most recent recalls follow what Toyota insisted was a companywide effort to improve quality that was started by Katsuaki Watanabe, who served as its president before he was replaced last year by Akio Toyoda, grandson of the company’s founder.

My guess is there are quite a few people in Toyota that are getting a frustrated that they continue to have problems that they have been unable to successfully address. This strikes is as the kind of action initiated near the top of the organization chart to remind the organization that problems must be addressed immediately. It is not ok to continue business as usually when problems have not been addressed in the Toyota Production System. Toyota is capable of failing to live up to the principles of lean manufacturing. But they also seem to understand this risk and continue to strive to improve. To succeed though they need to improve results – intentions alone are not enough.

Related: Cease Mass Inspection for QualityRecalls at Toyota and SonyReacting to Product ProblemsWorkplace Management by Taiichi Ohno

Akio Toyoda’s Message Shows Real Leadership

Speech by Akio Toyoda

Since the birth of Toyota, the company’s philosophy has always been to “contribute to society.”

“Contributing to society” at Toyota means two things. First, it means, “to manufacture automobiles that meet the needs of society and enrich people’s lives.” And second, “to take root in the communities we serve by creating jobs, earning profits and paying taxes, thereby enriching the local economies where we operate.”

Toyota has overcome many challenges during its seven decades of business. What has made this possible is the way we make our cars under our “customer first” and “genchi genbutsu” principles

Rather than asking, “How many cars will we sell?” or, “How much money will we make by selling these cars?” we need to ask ourselves, “What kind of cars will make people happy?” as well as, “What pricing will attract them in each region?” Then we must make those cars.

Through these processes, I would like to make Toyota’s product development and product lineup more region-focused. We will change our policy from achieving “a full lineup everywhere” to “a lineup necessary to meet the needs of each region”. We will also launch new vehicles that anticipate consumer needs and are exciting to drive.

At the press conference in January, I talked about my desire to become “a president who is closest to the frontlines, or gemba.” I believe that the essence of management lies in the gemba, and Toyota employees play a vital role there.

Once again Toyota shows they are the type of management I want to invest in. In my last post I discussed another: Jeff Bezos at Amazon. Google management is another management system I am glad to invest in. Toyota, Amazon and Google are 3 of my 12 stocks for 10 year portfolio.

Toyota continues to show they are an exceptional company that doesn’t waver due to short term pressures. They know the management system they have in place is excellent. They always try to improve. And they react to evidence that shows they have room to improve. They then access the situation and move forward.

via: Toyoda on Toyota: A New Regime, A New Future

Related: New Toyota CEO’s Views (2005)Interview with Toyota President (2006)Deming Companies“2007 has been a difficult year for Toyota”No Excessive Senior Executive Pay at ToyotaWebcast on the Toyota Development Process

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Toyota Develops Thought-controlled Wheelchair

Toyota has developed a thought-controlled wheelchair (along with Japanese government research institute, RIKEN, and Genesis Research Institute). Honda has also developed a system that allows a person to control a robot through thoughts. Both companies continue to invest in innovation and science and engineering. The story of a bad economy and bad sales for a year or two is what you read in most newspapers. In my opinion the more important story is why Toyota and Honda will be dominant companies 20 years from now. And that story is based on their superior management and focus on long term success instead of short term quarterly results.

Yes Toyota can improve their performance, based on the last few years. Does management understand what they need to do? I think so. Does management understand that the system needs to be improved rather than the numbers on the spreadsheets of various managers have to be made better? I think so. Do I think most companies today, with bad results, understand the difference between bad numbers on spreadsheets that are used to judge various managers and a system that needs to be improved? No.

I do not believe the bad earnings for the last year for Toyota are indicative of a failed system. The results do show a weakness in the Toyota system that allowed them to perform this poorly during this credit crisis. The risk to Toyota’s future is that they become too focused on short term results, mistakenly thinking the problem to be fixed in the bad quarterly results recently. They need to focus on improving the system for the long term. And the recent experience likely shows some areas that need to be improved. But in no way do the fundamental tenants of the management system need to be changed. For many other companies today, changing fundamental aspects of their management is what is needed.

Related: Toyota as HomebuilderHonda’s Robolegs Help People WalkHonda has Never had Layoffs and has been Profitable Every YearToyota’s Partner RobotNUMMI, and GM’s Failure to Manage EffectivelyToyota iUnitInvest in New Management Methods Not a Failing Company by William Hunter, 1986
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Toyota Posts Loss of $6.9 Billion in Last Quarter

Toyota Posts Loss of $6.9 Billion in Last Quarter

For January-March, Toyota booked a $6.9 billion loss, in line with consensus estimates, and cut its annual dividend nearly 30 percent — the first cut since at least 1994, when it changed its reporting period.

Toyota President Katsuaki Watanabe was more downbeat, stopping short of predicting when sales would pick up in major markets, or when the company would return to profitability as it remains saddled with excess capacity. “Of course the external environment doesn’t help, but we were lacking in the scope and speed of dealing with various problems and issues, and for that I am sorry,” he told a news conference.

For the year to next March, the maker of the Prius hybrid forecast an operating loss of 850 billion yen, more than double the average forecast in a survey of 20 analysts by Thomson Reuters. It sees an annual net loss of 550 billion yen based on the dollar and euro averaging 95 yen and 125 yen.

The bleak forecasts prompted ratings agency Standard & Poor’s to downgrade Toyota’s long-term debt ratings to AA from AA+, with a negative outlook.

To return to profit, Toyota must sell more cars or cut costs further, Watanabe said. But he predicted the U.S. market would be around 10 million vehicles industrywide at best this year, down from more than 13 million in 2008.

Toyota is bleeding overhead costs, with about a third of its global assembly lines working on single shifts. It will slash capital spending by more than a third this year to 830 billion yen as it puts expansion projects on hold, but it said it was not thinking of closing any production lines for good.

In my opinion these negative results are a sign of Toyota’s strength not weakness. The credit crisis and economic downturn has resulted in a poor economic environment. Toyota has managed to sustain the blow and hold firm to their principles and likely will come out of this downturn stronger as a company (mainly re-enforcing the importance of planning for bad economic conditions and not getting too excited about growth potential versus risks of growing too fast) and in a better position compared to their competitors. I continue to be an owner of Toyota stock and happily so.

Related: Idle Workers Busy at ToyotaFinancial Market Meltdown (Oct 2008)“2007 has been a difficult year for Toyota”New Toyota CEO’s Views (2005)Jim Press, Toyota N. American President, Moves to Chrysler

NUMMI, and GM’s Failure to Manage Effectively

Gipsie Ranney recently sent me an article on her thoughts on NUMMI and the current problems with the Big Three car makers to post to the Curious Cat Management Improvement Library. NUMMI is the plant that Toyota and General Motors run together as a joint venture. The article is excellent.

The answer to a question asked by someone else on the tour was stunning to me. The person asked what kind of computerized inventory system they had at NUMMI. The leader of the tour at the time – a materials management person – responded, “we don’t have one; the Japanese say that computerized inventory systems lie.”

The most remarkable insight I gained at NUMMI came as an answer to a question from a member of the touring group. The person asked what had been learned about the reasons that management/labor conflict had been reduced so much. The tour guide answered, “The answer we get from members of the labor force is that the Japanese do what they say they will do.” This was the same labor force that had held the record for most grievances filed per year in an assembly plant in the U.S.

The Big Three are responsible for managing their organizations wisely. I think that will take more than money. It will take a different culture and a different mind.

I agree. The problem is that management fails to manage well and has been failing to do so for decades. They have improved over the last few decades but not nearly fast or consistently enough. Gipsie worked closely with Dr. Deming and serves on the W. Edwards Deming Institute Board of Trustees.

Related: Could Toyota Fix GM (2005)At Ford, Quality Was Our Motto in the 1980sBig Failed Three, Meet the Successful EightWhy Fix the Escalator?Invest in New Management Methods Not a Failing Company (AMC) by William Hunter, 1986 – Ford and Managing the Supplier RelationshipNo Excessive Senior Executive Pay at Toyota

Big Failed Three, Meet the Successful Eight

Big Three, Meet the “Little Eight”

The 1,300-acre plant, in which Toyota has invested $5.3 billion, produces a car roughly every minute. Georgetown’s population has doubled. In fields where farmers once grew tobacco and raised cattle, McMansions, apartment complexes, and condominiums have sprouted. A 150,000-square-foot upscale retail center is rising near the Toyota plant, the better to serve its 7,000 employees.

In San Antonio, the Toyota Tundra plant lay idle for three months this fall, though Toyota hasn’t laid off anyone. Instead, according to Richard Perez, president and CEO of the Greater San Antonio Chamber of Commerce, Toyota offered the city “a whole bunch of folks who need to get busy.” (San Antonio put them to work on beautification projects.) Of course, Toyota has resources to act in a more paternalistic manner – in part because the parent companies aren’t saddled with the burdens of providing health care and retirement for workers in home markets.

This is not behaving in a paternalistic manner, this is behaving in an honorable manner with the other long term stakeholders that have a shared interest in the long term success of the company. When managers and executives do their jobs the company will succeed in good times and have a plan for bad times and will deal effectively with obvious long term issues. Health care costs, pensions costs, and bad labor-management relations have been obvious critical issues to solve for GM, Ford and Chrysler for decades. The pathetic job those 3 have done with those, and other issues (they still don’t understand how to work with suppliers, how to stop the obsessive focus on quarterly profits, how to demand honorable behavior [not looting] from senior executives…), lead to their current situation.

The poor economy leads the the situation you now see with Toyota and Honda: profits being cut, having to put in place plans to retain employees while they are not needed to produce output today, etc.. You don’t see companies needing billions to survive a few months unless they were incredibly poorly lead. And those leading them were paid many times more than those that led Toyota and Honda. They have had decades to act responsibly. They have failed. And there failure will be felt by those that enabled them to take huge pay packages that were not warranted. They should be ashamed.
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Idle Workers Busy at Toyota

Idle Workers Busy at Toyota

Instead of sending the workers home, as the Detroit makers often do, Toyota is keeping them at the plants, though. The employees spend their days in training sessions designed to sharpen their job skills and find better ways to assemble vehicles.

At its Princeton plant, by contrast, Toyota is using the down time to hone its workers’ quality-control and productivity skills. The company has pledged never to lay off any of its full-time employees, who are nonunion.

Jim Lentz, president of Toyota Motor Sales, the company’s U.S. sales unit, said the company believes keeping employees on the payroll and using the time to improve their capabilities is the best move in the long run. “It would have been crazy for us to lose people for 90 days and [then] to rehire and retrain people and hope that we have a smooth ramp-up coming back in,” Mr. Lentz said.

In Princeton, senior plant manager Norm Bafunno said he can already see the benefits of the training. Mr. Bafunno cites a Teflon ring designed by an assembly worker during the down time that helps prevent paint damage when employees install an electrical switch on the edge of a vehicle’s door.

Mr. Mason, a 40-year-old former firefighter, added: “One of the major things that everyone is grateful for is that they thought enough of us to keep us here.”

Toyota continues to show intelligence, long term thinking, respect for people… in their management decisions. I worry they may capitulate and make explanations about how the economy forced them to abandon their principles. I hope they prove that cynical fear in me to be wrong, in their case.

Related: Bad Management Results in LayoffsToyota Management Not Close to Being DuplicatedToyota’s Commitment to CustomersPeople are Our Most Important AssetJim Press, Toyota N. American President, Moves to Chrysler

Financial Market Meltdown

The financial market meltdown has grown to the point where it has profound ramifications for everyone. The common wisdom for financial market variation, for most of us, is just to focus on the long term and don’t worry about short term fluctuations. That is good advice. This panic is threatening to override that wisdom however. There are at least 2 areas to consider: personal finance and business prospects (how managers need to take this crisis into account).

On personal finance I still believe the same smart personal financial decisions last year, or five years ago are wise today: avoid credit card debt, have an emergency fund of 6 months of expenses, save for retirement, have proper health insurance, don’t buy what you don’t need and can’t afford… The biggest change I see is that the risks of failing to do these things (and the risks of failing to have done them in the past) are increasing greatly.

One of the challenges with personal financial matters is they are by nature long term issues. What you did over the last 5 years cannot be fixed in a few weeks, most likely it takes years. For more details follow the links in the paragraph above (to posts on the Curious Cat Investing and Economics Blog). You can’t make much progress quickly on these matters if you failed to do so over the last 5 years. However, you can at the very least start doing so now and you can even go a bit further if you were doing well (I am seriously considering raising my retirement contributions to take advantage of low stock prices).

On the impact to management area, this crisis has reached the point at many companies that managers not involved in finance have already been dealing much more with the importance of cash flow. And all indications indicate the risks related to manage cash flow are increasing dramatically. The expected sources of cash to provide for long term investments, for medium term investments and even short term cash flow needs are disappearing in a way I don’t think anyone predicted was possible.

What will happen in the next 1-6 months is very hard to predict. Most likely the credit markets will recover some (it is hard to imagine they could stay this broken). But to what extent is hard to say. And the real business risks of almost unimaginable (anytime the last 70 years anyway) problems raising cash, require managers to evaluate how to react today based on these risks. Even a month ago, for most businesses (outside of the financial industry or those with extremely heavy financing needs) this was not likely a consideration.
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Toyota Winglet – Personal Transportation Assistance

Winglet Personal Mobility Device from Toyota

Toyota has a long term vision. The population of Japan is aging rapidly. Toyota has invested in personal transportation and personal robotic assistance for quite some time. I must admit this new Winglet doesn’t seem like an incredible breakthrough to me (their earlier iUnit seems much better to me – though I am sure much more expensive too). The interest to me is in their continued focus on this market which I think is a smart move. The aging population worldwide (and others) will benefit greatly from improved personal mechanical assistance.

The Winglet is one of Toyota’s people-assisting Toyota Partner Robots. Designed to contribute to society by helping people enjoy a safe and fully mobile life, the Winglet is a compact (you stand just above the wheels and it reaches about the level of your knees) next-generation everyday transport tool that offers advanced ease of use and expands the user’s range of mobility.

The Winglet consists of a body that houses an electric motor, two wheels and internal sensors that constantly monitor the user’s position and make adjustments in power to ensure stability. Meanwhile, a unique parallel link mechanism allows the rider to go forward, backward and turn simply by shifting body weight, making the vehicle safe and useful even in tight spaces or crowded environments.

Toyota plans various technical and consumer trials to gain feedback during the Winglet’s lead-up to practical use. Practical tests of its utility as a mobility tool are planned to begin in Autumn 2008 at Central Japan International Airport (Centrair) near Nagoya, and Laguna Gamagori, a seaside marine resort complex in Aichi Prefecture. Testing of its usefulness in crowded and other conditions, and how non-users react to the device, is to be carried out in 2009 at the Tressa Yokohama shopping complex in Yokohama City.

Toyota is pursuing sustainability in research and development, manufacturing and social contribution as part of its concept to realize “sustainability in three areas” and to help contribute to the health and comfort of future society. Toyota Partner Robot development is being carried out with this in mind and applies Toyota’s approach to monozukuri (“making things”), which includes its mobility, production and other technologies.

Toyota aims to realize the practical use of Toyota Partner Robots in the early 2010s.

On a personal note, I bought some more Toyota stock two weeks ago. The stock had declined a bit recently. Toyota is one of the companies in my 12 stocks for 10 years portfolio.

Related: Toyota Develops Personal Transport Assistance Robot ‘Winglet’No Excessive Senior Executive Pay at ToyotaMore on Non-Auto Toyota

How to Develop Thinking People

Toyota’s Top Engineer on How to Develop Thinking People

Hayashi says, “Developing people requires physical endurance.” Frequent follow up is necessary, in person. It is not acceptable to give an assignment and follow up or scold only after three months, during a progress report meeting. Specific actions and detailed follow up are necessary.

Excellent advice.

Also, when we are required to deliver results with speed, we only give our subordinates small projects so that even if they fail they have time to recover. In the end, we give them the solution. We must firmly carry on the practice of developing thinking people. Mr. Ohno often said to us, “Don’t look with your, look with your feet. Don’t think with you head, think with your hands.” He also taught us, “People who can’t understand numbers are useless. The gemba where numbers are not visible is also bad. However, people who only look at the numbers are the worst of all.”

And more wisdom. Great stuff from Taiichi Ohno, Nanpachi Hayashi and Jon Miller’s translation and great blog.

Related: Respect for People and Taiichi OhnoToyota IT for KaizenManagement ImprovementWorkplace Management by Taiichi OhnoPosts on Respect for People

Drucker’s Ideas at Toyota

The Drucker difference and Toyota’s success by Ira A. Jackson, dean of the Peter F. Drucker Graduate School of Management, the business school of the Claremont Colleges.

Because of this core belief in the power of people, Toyota invests in people. And at the same time, the company has come to realize that when people grapple with opposing views

Embrace contradictions as a way of life. Sticking to old practices can lead to rigidity. Be fluid.

Develop routines to resolve contradictions. As the authors note, “Unless companies teach employees how to deal with problems rigorously and systematically, they won’t be able to harness the power of contradictions.” Toyota has a number of tools including the well-known ask-why-five-times practice and the Plan-Do-Check-Act model.

Encourage employees to voice their opinions even if they are contrary. The people in top management must be open to hearing critical comments from employees and listening to opposing views if they want to engender new ideas and new ways of doing things.

Related: Drucker Opinion Essays from the WSJDeming and ToyotaManagement Pioneer Peter DruckerThe Contradictions That Drive Toyota’s SuccessExtreme Toyota: Radical Contradictions That Drive Success at the World’s Best Manufacturer

The Contradictions That Drive Toyota’s Success

An interesting article in this month’s Harvard Business Review looks at the seeming contradictions at Toyota – The Contradictions That Drive Toyota’s Success by Hirotaka Takeuchi, Emi Osono, and Norihiko Shimizu

Many of Toyota’s goals are purposely vague, allowing employees to channel their energies in different directions and forcing specialists from different functions to collaborate across the rigid silos in which they usually work. For example, Watanabe has said that his goal is to build a car that makes the air cleaner, prevents accidents, makes people healthier and happier when they drive it, and gets you from coast to coast on one tank of gas… Zenji Yasuda, a former Toyota senior managing director, points out the wisdom of painting with broad strokes. “If he makes [the goal] more concrete, employees won’t be able to exercise their full potential. The vague nature of this goal confers freedom to researchers to open new avenues of exploration; procurement to look for new and unknown suppliers who possess needed technology; and sales to consider the next steps needed to sell such products.”

A good explanation of how Toyota avoids the trap of arbitrary numerical goals (Innovation at Toyota).

Toyota’s eagerness to experiment helps it clear the hurdles that stand in the way of achieving near-impossible goals. People test hypotheses and learn from the consequent successes and failures. By encouraging employees to experiment, Toyota moves out of its comfort zone and into uncharted territory.

This is another key point often overlooked. Experimentation is key to gaining knowledge and improving. And they have steadily improved their method of experimentation building on the PDSA/PDCA cycle:

Toyota organizes experiments using strict routines, as is widely known. It has refined Plan-Do-Check-Act (PDCA), the continuous-improvement process used throughout the business world, into the Toyota Business Practices (TBP) process. The eight-step TBP lays out a path for employees to challenge the status quo: clarify the problem; break down the problem; set a target; analyze the root cause; develop countermeasures; see countermeasures through; monitor both results and processes; and standardize successful processes. Similarly, the A3 report… forces employees to capture the most essential information needed to solve a problem on a single sheet that they can disseminate widely.

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Outsourcing To America

Outsourcing To America

Toyota (TM) began operating in North America in the mid-1980s. It currently operates seven automotive plants there, four of which are in the U.S. A fifth plant is under production in Mississippi. Toyota employs 40,000 manufacturing employees in North America.

In addition to the manufacture of cars and trucks, Toyota runs four unit factories in the U.S., where they produce such parts as engines, transmissions and wheels. Toyota also has a wholly owned subsidiary, Bodine Aluminum, an aluminum casting company, which operates three factories in Tennessee and Missouri.

BMW began operations in the U.S. in 1994, when it opened a plant in Spartanburg, S.C. “Some natural hedging was always a part of the long-term strategy, but also we have a corporate strategy of having production follow the market,” says Robert Hitt, BMW’s manager of public affairs. “Our original plan was to have about 2,000 workers here by the year 2000. We are now at 5,400 people here on the site.”

Besides the actual manufacturing of their cars and trucks, Toyota and BMW are using domestic suppliers to provide parts and services for their operations. BMW has over 200 suppliers in North America, 52 of which are located in South Carolina, and 41 of these are new companies started for the purpose of supplying the plant. In South Carolina alone, suppliers of BMW’s Spartanburg plant employ over 14,000 people.

Toyota uses roughly 500 major suppliers in North America. “We’ve always had the philosophy that we should build vehicles where they are sold, so it makes sense to have suppliers close to your manufacturing operations,” says Mike Goss, external affairs manager for Toyota’s engineering and manufacturing division in North America.

Foreign production in the U.S., however, is not limited to the automotive industry…. In fact, almost 1 million Americans get their paychecks from Mexican companies, says Ton Heijmen, senior adviser for outsourcing and offshoring for the Conference Board.

Related: Top 10 Manufacturing Countries 2006Moving Jobs to Silicon Valley from IndiaGlobal Manufacturing Jobs DataToyota in the United States of America EconomyChina Outsourcing Manufacturing to USA

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