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
“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 Quality – Recalls at Toyota and Sony – Reacting to Product Problems – Workplace Management by Taiichi Ohno
I’m sure you are right that there are many frustrated people, but one of the benefits of stopping production is that it can turn frustration of lack of progress into complete focus on the problem.
While most people will actually look at this is “more bad news from Toyota” and how Toyota is slipping, in fact I think it sends the strongest message that they are not. Most importantly, companies that would never consider stopping anything need to learn some lessons from this. Why would Toyota do this?
First, it helps protect further customers. No more in the field means no more customers getting faulty product. Second, it focuses resources. A stopped line creates not only an urgency to drive this problem and no others. But it also eliminates all other distractions, excuses, and activities that can consume resources and attention. And third, whether you are stopping a whole line or just a segment, it freezes the current state so if there is something that requires observation, it can be done.
Too often, when there is a problem, people just think they can “power through.” It is as if your shoe came untied halfway through the marathon. Do you flop around for miles and miles, or do you stop and tie it. Most would power through; a lean thinker would stop and tie.
I have been resisting writing about the Toyota case because so little is actually know about the defect itself, and cause and effect isn’t clear. But I have been getting enough questions about it. I don’t think this changes anything about Toyota’s success. They still have dramatically fewer recalls than others. And of course no one that knows lean would say they were anything close to perfect.
I did write up some of my thoughts and lessons in observing the story on my blog here: http://jamieflinchbaugh.com/2010/02/the-fall-of-the-mighty-toyota/
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