It is always a great learning opportunity when you go on a Toyota factory tour and visit Toyota’s Kaikan exhibition centre in Toyota City on the outskirts of Nagoya.
I’ve had the privilege of visiting different Toyota plants several times and every time I see and hear the busy inner-workings of the synchronised processes it overloads your senses. The same happened again at the Motomachi plant. Because there is so much going on, it takes a few minutes to focus your sight and to tune your ears so that you can observe specific operations. Only then can you follow some of the synchronised and integrated flow of materials through the numerous KANBAN and kitting loops. Only then do you appreciate how operator’s actions and movements are optimised by carefully designed and continuously improved lay-out, set-up and supporting internal logistics. If you pay attention, you can distinguish the unique tune that indicates a problem on a line that is also displayed on the andon board. To top it off, once you realise again that you’re looking at a mixed production line with different models moving down the same line you realise that is really impressive. I can stand there for hours and just soak it up, truly amazing!
This time we’ve had an added bonus with Professor Hideo Kunisawa joining us for the visit to the Motomachi plant and then discussing over lunch about what we’ve seen at the plant. He then did a presentation about Japanese management. Prof. Kunisawa worked for Toyota Auto Body for almost 20 years and is currently with the Chubu-gakuin University where he advises companies like Toyota Auto Body, Hitachi, Rinnai, NGK Insulators. He explained that employees with high motivation can have double the output of employees with low motivation. Another key point that Prof. Kunisawa stressed was the importance of one page structured problem solving by everyone, everywhere, every day. He described problem solving as the foundation of management.