As we closed out our final day, we visited our last 2 facilities. These were arguably the most impactful tours we took…..Mitsubishi Nagoya Works and Toyota. The Mitsubishi Nagoya Works (MNW) focuses on factory automation and mechatronics. The level of organization and “5S” within this facility was inspirational. Having discussed with many in our group, this was the most impressive display of cleanliness and organization in a manufacturing or machine shop many of us have ever seen. Everything had a place from micro hand tool to large carts and equipment. More impressive than having a place for everything, was the fact that everything was in its place! Not near, or close to its place, everything was located directed within the lines identifying it’s The sustainment of this “everything in its place” culture was incredible! MNW is a great example of vertical integration. After viewing the manufacturing process of large scale industrial equipment, we headed inside to see the manufacture of the hundreds of circuit boards that drive the equipment. Again, what a great example of Lean principles. Each of the U cells within the process were assembling different components that would comprise the controls mechanisms for factory automation. Each piece was individually tracked through bar code scanning. An employee would scan the piece at each stage of process and also scan their own employee card. This allows for the real time tracking of the manufacture of each piece, parts replenishment trigger (Kanban), and also accountability for error proofing. Also to note, the team at MNW was able to quickly and efficiently produce circuit boards with more than 400 parts on a 3” by 3” board, while it took our group 5 mins (and many attempts) to simply switch our shoes to slippers and get organized. We have some work to do!
Next we were off to Toyota City, motherland to the Toyota manufacturing empire and birthplace of the Toyota Production System (TPS). We were greeted by 2 tour guides, a senior guide and a trainee. In Japan, April is the start of a new work year and as such, new employees can be seen all over the country being trained and coached by experienced and tenured employees. The facility we visited was over 1,600,000 sq. meters, employed over 4100 team members, and manufactured the Crown, Mark X, and Estima models. I would be challenged to explain this experience in less than 10 pages, but will speak to what inspired me. Two things stood out for me, the actually process and the culture. It’s truly impressive to see a production line that can produce hundreds of different products….sequentially. This example of “just in time” production is incredible. The same line will produce any model, any colour or feature, any drivetrain (hybrid or gas), and any even drive orientation (RH or LH) all in sequence! It was like watching a well-orchestrated ballet. The pace was well balanced and did not feel hectic at all. This is a direct result of the culture at Toyota. High above the production work being done by humans and machines, were banners that explained why. “Good thinking = good products” This simple statement says it all. Every employee (and supplier) at Toyota takes pride in what they are creating. They quickly identify and rectify any potential defects that may arise. They would never send a defective product on to the next step. Our guide explained that there is no need for an abundance of inspectors walking the line as “all workers are inspectors”. This hit home for me. Imagine the quality and efficiency increase you could make in your organization if we all thought like this! What a great way to wrap up and incredible week in Japan. Now we take this momentum back to North America with us to “Transform the World”!
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