Toyota & Kaizen Activity

It has been a bad week for Toyota. The well-respected company has taken some lumps because of their accelerator recall. It is a shame that one faulty part has such a big impact. Nevertheless, product quality, especially when it comes to the safety of human lives, is paramount. Since Horst Engineering is in the business of manufacturing critical precision components for aerospace, medical, automotive, and other high technology industries, I have an insider’s view.

We use many aspects of the Toyota Production System as part of our own lean enterprise process. Our continuous improvement system isn’t as integrated as we would like, but we are well on our way towards making it the platform by which we operate our business. We have practiced kaizen (改善Japanese for improvement) for more than 10 years. We had a third-party facilitated kaizen activity earlier this month. The four-day effort focused on the flow of an order from the time that we receive it from a customer, to the point at which we issue the work instructions to our shop floor. Our kaizen team was cross-functional and trained to use the lean tools that are the hallmark of the Toyota Production System. The goal of our kaizen activity was to cut the lead time that it takes to issue the traveler package and to improve the quality of the overall process. This was the third major kaizen activity that we have had since last September. Better process = better product.

Defects are the bane of any manufacturing organization. Seeing Toyota’s suffering has caused me to reflect on our business. As a contract manufacturer, we don’t design our own products, but we are still responsible for the process of making the product. A supplier manufactured the faulty Toyota parts. I look forward to reading the case study.

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