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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Vancouver Auto Show 2011


The launch of the 2011 Vancouver International Auto Show - held for the first time at the Vancouver Convention Center - was reflective of the current Canadian economy:  subdued but cautiously optimistic.  The show runs through to Sunday, April 3, 2011 and as with past events, expect the weekend to be packed with car enthusiasts of all ages.

The manufacturers have reasons to be buoyant, thanks to healthy gains in sales fueled by new as well as significantly refreshed models. On one hand, the theme of some models was very much focused on horsepower and performance - to feed the adrenaline seekers.  However, with the cost of gas lingering over $1.30 per liter, it was also timely for some manufacturers to introduce several gas-sipping models to satisfy the more environmentally-conscious buyers here in British Columbia.

The contrast could not be more clearly illustrated by Toyota, with one of only 10 LFA Supercars for the Canadian market proudly on display, and at the same time introducing the up-sized version of the iconic Prius called the Prius V (for versatility). The “V” offers as much as 50% more interior cargo space, improved handling and safety features, and backed by the same industry benchmark fuel efficiency as the original.
Here are my personal highlights from some of the participating manufacturers:

General Motors
Much has already been written and talked about the all-electric Chevrolet Volt with a range of about 500 kms and expected to be available here in Canada from this summer.  GM also introduced three other new Chevrolet models to watch out for in the near future such as the Orlando, a small SUV, the Sonic, a compact car, and the Camaro Convertible. The Buick Verano sedan is expected to shake up gains in market share in the ultra-competitive compact luxury segment.

Ford Motor
Following up on the highly successful Ford Fusion, the attention turned to the all-new Ford Focus, with its distinctive trapezoidal front grille and overall sporty compact design catching one’s eye. It relies on the same platform as the Ford Focus Electric, which can be expected to clock a top speed of 136 km/h. Ford plans to roll out several more all-electric vehicles by 2013.

Chrysler has been busy introducing several refreshed and significantly improved models of late including the beautiful 300, Charger, Jeep Grand Cherokee and so on, but the one that grabbed most of the attention was also the smallest: the Fiat 500. It’s “cute” and stylish at the same time and comes well equipped with many standard features not usually found in such sub-compact cars. With its sophisticated 1.4L engine, you can expect the little Fiat to be miserly with fuel.


Easily one of the stars of the show is the Lexus LFA Supercar, of which there are only 500 available worldwide and 10 here in Canada. Toyota also delivered in the hybrid side as expected,  which includes the Lexus CT200h and the Prius V, which boasts far more useable interior space compared to the original Prius.  In the photo above, David Chao stands beside Toyota Managing Director Steven Beatty.


The most notable announcement in the Nissan line of cars was the pricing for the Nissan Leaf (starting from $38,395). Although the price is considered high, it comes with an impressive array of standard features. The Nissan Leaf is the first mass produced all-electric vehicle that is currently available for purchase.  David Chao and Bob Low pose with the "polar bear" in front of the Nissan Leaf (the same bear that was used in the TV commercial, apparently).

Making most of the news in the Honda camp is the imminent replacement of the highly successful Honda Civic model line. Providing an insight into the more aggressive and sporty design direction was the Civic Si Concept Coupe on display.

Aside from interest generated from the all-new Hyundai Elantra, Hyundai also introduced the Veloster hatchback coupe, with its eye-catching design meant to attract the younger crowd.

In its desire to establish a stronger foot-hold in the Canadian market, Volkswagen showcased the all-new Jetta, which has gained a cleaner, more sophisticated look and a very attractive price to boot. The Jetta is offered in five trim levels, including the diesel engine TDI as well as the sporty GLI, which comes with a 2 liter gas engine.

Making news at the BMW booth was the 1 Series M Coupe, packing a powerful sport-tuned 3 liter engine into a compact package. Also unveiled was the iconic and beautifully contoured BMW 650i with 3D Heads-up-display. Making just as much of the headlines was the Mini Cooper Countryman, a four-door “stretched” or “up-sized” version of the classic.

Improving on an already stunning design, the Mercedes CLS 63 AMG raised the pulse rate with its stunning silhouette which is matched with the performance and handling it deserves. Also getting the attention was the new SLK Roadster.

Jaguar/Land Rover
Spicing up the day were the beautiful beasts from Jaguar, particularly the XJ Supersport. Not to be out-done, however, the stylish all-new Range Rover Evoque cross-over coupe also appeared in the show.

Rounding up the excitement at the Vancouver International Auto Show were the ultra-luxurious vehicles including the Rolls-Royce Ghost, Ferrari California, Lamborghini Gallardo LP560 Spyder, Lotus Evora, Mesariti GranTurismo Convertible and the Bentley Mulsanne.

Show Dates: March 29 - April 3, 2011
Show Hours: Tuesday - Friday, Noon - 10 p.m.
Saturday: 10 a.m. - 10 p.m.
Sunday: 10 a.m. - 6 p.m.
General Admission: $15
Seniors/Students: $10
Children 7-12: $4 (when accompanied by an adult)
Children 6 and under: Free (when accompanied by an adult)
Family Pass: 2 adults & 2 children 12 & under $30
Multi-Day Pass: Good for any 2 days $25
Location: Vancouver Convention Centre West -Exhibition Halls
More information: www.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Question of the day

Toyota and lean leaders often talk about the need to do "genchi gembutsu" or to "go and see where the action is." Sometimes we just call this the "go to gemba" princple.

When was the last time you went to "your gemba"?  More importantly, how often do you do gemba visits or a gemba walk of your business or operation?

Something to reflect on....

Monday, March 28, 2011

Japan Final Videos - All Five Days

We apologize for the delay, but we have finally completed the daily summary videos for all five days of the most recent Japan Lean Tour program. The videos provide day-to-day account of the various activities right up until the time earthquake hit Japan. 

Please note that you will some serious shots as well as humourous shots throughout the videos.  Since these videos were all taken before the earthquake, we were obviously unaware of what would take place in our last day of the program and so were going about each day in high spirit and energy.

The video summary ends right after the earthquake.  The only video we can show after that event is the commentary I made next day on Saturday regarding our team's safety and status.

We feel that the challenges we faced only strengthened our teamwork and brought us closer together than ever.  The event of March 11, 2011 have forever altered our thinking about lives and how we should be more thankful and appreciative.

Each video is anywhere from 5 min to just over 10 minutes.

Day Zero - one day before the official launch of Japan Lean Tour March 2011

Day One - official kickoff of the Japan Lean Tour (four days before the earthquake)

Day Two - second day of the Japan Lean Tour (three days before the earthquake)

Day Three - third day of the Japan Lean Tour (two days before the earthquake)

Day Four - fourth day of the Japan Lean Tour (one day before the earthquake)

Day Five - fifth day of the Japan Lean Tour (the day of the earthquake)

Day Six - day after the program completion and departure day for many (the day after the earthquake when we all tried to leave Japan to return home, but had difficulty with flights, trains, transportation). This is a short commentary from David Chao

Dr. Liker's New Book Announced

Dr. Jeffrey Liker has just published a new book about how Toyota handled the challenges of its recent issues with recalls, economic downturns, etc.  It is a fascinating book that should be on every lean champion's desk!

I have been communicating with Dr. Liker via email about the book and he sends this short message about the book:

The Toyota Recall Crisis and what it means to the Lean Community 

Process improvement specialists have been making major impacts on companies throughout the world independently of what happens at Toyota. Yet, it has been comforting to have Toyota to hold up as an icon, even spiritual leader, that is living proof that operational excellence leads to exceptional business results. 
Lean, six sigma, and any other process improvement methods are based on principles of scientific thinking.   Get the data, analyze it, make informed decisions to get to the root cause of the problem, then move on to the next problem in a continuous cycle of learning.   In Toyota Under Fire (McGraw Hill, 2011) Tim Ogden and I work to bring out the facts about the last two years of Toyota’s history, putting it in the perspective of the Toyota Way. Some of the clearest facts come from the U.S. government which originally attacked Toyota viciously then released reports on February 8, 2011 after a 10 month investigation by NASA and decades of investigation by the agency responsible for highway safety (NHTSA).

Here is a broad summary:

1.      There is no evidence, and there has never been any evidence, of electronic problems in Toyota vehicles (or any other brand) that cause sudden unintended acceleration (SUA).
2.      When they studied cases of crashes where drivers claimed SUA in almost all cases they found it was driver error or “pedal misapplication” as they put it.

3.      There were a small number of cases of pedal entrapment by unsecured, rubber, all weather floor mats that are stacked on top of other floor mats so reach a dangerous height and can slide into the pedal sometimes entrapping it.  (That also has been reported for other automakers like for the 2010 Ford Fusion).
4.      There were some sticky pedals that are slow to return, but they do not seem to affect braking distance, and up to this point there are no known accidents.

5.      The case is closed as far as NHTSA is concerned and essentially NASA simply proved what NHTSA already knew one year earlier (but was not willing to say).
It now sounds a lot like the Audi false accusations of SUA in the 1980s.  But Audi was a small, specialized brand and all but driven out of the U.S. market for a decade and Toyota is still number one in retail sales in the U.S. market once again the leading company in America in every quality award possible (J.D. Power, Consumer Reports, Polk, Kiplinger’s, Motorist Choice).   

The beginning in Toyota’s turnaround in sales actually was March, 2010 (market share dropped to 12.8 percent in February and rebounded to 17.6 percent in March), one month after stopping sales for a week for the sticky pedals, hundreds of negative articles written about Toyota, and the congress of the United States berating Toyota for lacking honesty, integrity, and a safety culture.  Even in the midst of that bleak month of February, a survey by Rice University of vehicle owners found that Toyota owners overwhelmingly trusted the company, thought they were handling the recalls properly, and would buy another and their loyalty scores were the highest of any auto maker.

Organizations that wish to view Toyota as a role model and find that useful can take solace in both the strength of the brand through the crisis, demonstrating the value of the investment in customers and quality, and in Toyota’s productive and effective long-term response.  In Toyota Under Fire we note that  Toyota was heroic in its handling of the recession, and not so heroic in the early stages of the recall crisis—taking too long to respond to allegations, too long to make decisions on recalls, and communicating poorly between Europe, headquarters in Japan, and staff in the United States.  This is a problem Toyota is going to great pains to solve over the coming decade by turning upside down key processes and organization globally.

The good news for those who value Toyota as a model of operational excellence is that their strong culture, the Toyota Way, is what got them to the point where customers trusted them, regardless of a negative media firestorm, and what allowed them in the short term to respond to customer needs such as getting the problem diagnosed and vehicles fixed in record time.  More important, the Toyota Way is guiding their long-term response based on deeply reflecting (hansei), taking responsibility, developing appropriate counter-measures with real punch, and relentlessly implementing the countermeasures.  We believe we will see an even stronger and better Toyota that we can be proud of for decades to come.

Jeffrey K. Liker
Professor of Industrial and Operations Engineering, University of Michigan
Author with Timothy N. Ogden of Toyota Under Fire (2011)

And more information about the book from (where you can buy the book now):

About the Book from

For decades, Toyota has been setting standards that are the envy—and goal–of organizations worldwide. Its legendary management principles and business philosophy, first documented by Jeffrey K. Liker in his influential book The Toyota Way, changed the business world’s approach to operational excellence.
Granted unprecedented access to Toyota’s facilities worldwide, Liker, along with Timothy N. Ogden, investigated the inside story of how Toyota faced the challenges of the recession and the recall crisis of 2009–2010. In both cases, the company was caught off guard—and found that a root cause of the challenges it faced was its failure to live up to its own principles. But the fundamentals were still there, and the company has ultimately come out of the most challenging years of its postwar existence even stronger than before.
Toyota Under Fire chronicles all the events of the recession and the recall crisis in detail, providing valuable lessons any business leader can use to survive and thrive in a crisis, no matter how large:
  • Crisis response must start by building a strong culture long before the crisis hits.
  • Culture matters far more than decisions made by top executives.
  • Investing in people, even in the depths of a recession, is the surest path to long-term profitability.
Because it had founded its culture on such principles, Toyota didn’t need to amass an army of public relations, marketing, and legal experts to “put out the fire”; instead, it redoubled efforts to live up to its founding tenet, going “back to basics.” Toyota began solving this crisis more than 70 years ago, when its organizational culture was first established.

Apply the lessons of Toyota Under Fire to your company, and you’ll meet any future management challenge calmly, responsibly, and effectively— the Toyota Way.

About the Author

Jeffrey K. Liker is the author of the bestselling The Toyota Way and 10 other related books. He is a professor of industrial and operational engineering at the University of Michigan and consults and speaks through his own consulting firm and The Toyota Way Academy.
Timothy N. Ogden is cofounder of Sona Partners and a writer and editor who has developed nearly 20 business books for major publishers. His work has appeared in Harvard Business Review, Stanford Social Innovation Review, Strategy+Leadership, and Miller- McCune, among others.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Japan Lean Tour - 30 minutes before the earthquake

Just 30 minutes before the earthquake, our members were busy taking group photos at the Denso showroom. These would become the last photos we took before the disaster struck our beloved Japan.

What was so astonishing is that when the earthquake hit, even though we were several hundred kms away, we all felt a strong swaying and shaking. Amazingly, the Denso manager who was taking us around said that he was committed to finishing the tour and continued on with the rest of the factory tour. At this point, none of us were aware of the terrible tragedy that began to unfold in northern Japan.  As we headed back to downtown Nagoya, we were still unaware of the severity of the natural disaster, because we were "cut off" from the media and our cells were not working properly. At the time, we were not even aware that our communication with the rest of the world were disrupted due to the quake.

It was not until we arrived back in Nagoya and turned on our TV that we realized the extend of the damage and the tragedy.

This is when our group truly felt blessed and thankful that we were safe and unaffected by the entire crisis.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Japan Lean Tour - the day of the earthquake

As we woke up early on March 11th, 2011, none of us had a clue as to what would take place that day. We were just filled with an excitement because this was the day we would be visiting Toyota and its largest supplier, Denso.  For many, visiting Toyota factory is the highlight of the Japan Lean program, and today was the day that this was going to become a reality.

We had a thorough visit of the Motomachi factory, and the group studied carefully every element of Toyota Way which can be seen throughout the tour.  The tour ended just before lunch, and the Toyota host took a group photo for us.  This would be one of our last photographs before the actual quake hit Japan.

Astonishingly, despite all of the issues facing people right after the earthquake, Toyota host promptly sent us the group photo right on schedule as promised (on Monday March 14th).

Right after the factory tour, we visited Toyota Pavillion, where we saw some of Toyota' latest cars and technologies being displayed. We were delighted to see Toyota's futuristic robot play music with a trumpet, and many car enthusiasts could not take their eyes off the exotic Lexus LFA super sports car.

We then visited Denso, one of the most respected automotive suppliers in the world.  As LSI has a close relationship Denso, we enjoyed a thorough visit of the Denso showroom followed by the factory tour.

This is now about one hour before the earthquake hit, and we were busy studying the "Denso Way" and were able to take some photos of Denso's vision and strategy posters.

The rest of the photos are found below:
Japan Fri Mar 11, 2011

Japan Lean Tour - 1 day before the earthquake

One day before the earthquake day, our Japan Lean Tour program continued on to Nagoya, where we visited the Toyota technology musuem. The day was filled with many activites, as we had to check out of our Tokyo hotels, take bullet train to Nagoya, and settle down in the new hotel located just above the train station.

The group was excited to take the bullet train for the first time, and we even had a glimpse of Mount Fuji. Thinking back, the quiet, peaceful train ride seems surreal when we realize now that this was the "day before" the disaster.  It's hard to believe that March 10th was just a couple of weeks ago.

Notice LSI coach Joey running to catch the shot!

The complete set of photos can be seen below:

Japan Thu Mar 10, 2011

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Japan Lean Tour - 2 days before the earthquake

Wednesday March 9th marked the beginning of a visit to two Nissan plants, exactly two days before the earthquake struck Japan.  Our Japan Lean Tour participants considered this day to be the "highlight", with many people giving thumbs-up to the amazing tour of the two Nissan factories. 

The visit included the Nissan Oppama factory where vehicles are built, and the Nissan Yokohama factory where the engines are built.  We were excited to see the engines of the legendary Nissan GT-R being hand-built at the site.

We were also blessed to have the chance to get a ride in Nissan's new all-electric car, Leaf.  It was a nice surprise and Nissan folks took the time to give each and everyone of us a chance to get a ride.  We were so impressed with the hospitality of Nissan members that some people said that they are going to trade-in their vehicles for a Nissan when they return to their home country!

Here are the highlights:

In the evening, we had a very special Japanese dinner at a restaurant called "En", with great views of Tokyo.  People were a bit puzzled by some of the food but they were extremely impressed by the overall quality and the authentic "Japanese setting" of the restaurant.

All the photos can be found in the link below:

Japan Wed Mar 9, 2011

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Japan Lean Tour - 3 days before the earthquake

On Tuesday March 8th, our Japan Lean Tour participants continued its second day of the program with a mixture of business visits and cultural learning.  Our first order of the day was a visit to Toyota Logistics and Forklift, one of the most advanced logistics companies in the world.  Toyota L&F has capability beyond your imagination when it comes to creating, designing, and implementing a lean logistics system. They are primarily Japan-focused in terms of customers but of course they also sell and service Toyota forklifts world-wide.  We learned a variety of topics such as kanban, inventory management, and lean delivery system.

As photos were not allowed to be taken, I've provided some photos from their website below:

After the visit there, the program members had a chance to visit Tokyo museum to understand its history and culture.

The day ended with a short visit to Asakusa, where we can see the true traditions of Japanese.

The entire set of photos can be found here:

Japan Tue Mar 8, 2011