The Situation at Production Sites is Ever-Changing

Mitsuru Kawai, Executive Vice President
Mitsuru Kawai
Executive Vice President*
*Title as of December 2019

At a production site, an equipment failure, quality problem, missing part, or other issue can arise at any time. The situation at such sites is ever-changing. As such, quick judgment and swift, on-the-spot decision making, and sometimes even major manpower mobilization, is crucial to avoid keeping customers waiting.

At Toyota, when a problem occurs at a production site, the first thing we do is halt the operation in question. We seek to identify the precise issue and its root cause, then implement steps to prevent recurrences and improve. The experience built up in this way, handling issues in the course of daily operations, enables our people to respond quickly. The mindset of always looking for ways to improve processes and, reduce costs while adapting to new changes every day and considering quality, production volume, and above all, safety, is firmly established.

I am constantly reminding those around me that today's best is not always tomorrow's best, and that we must evolve every day. I believe that this spirit of Kaizen (improvement) will enable us to flexibly respond to large-scale change going forward.

Further Deepening Our Culture of Improvement

Further Deepening Our Culture of Improvement

Front-line production sites have the advantage of clear goals, set in such terms as productivity and cost, and the effects of improvements are readily apparent. In contrast, at administrative and technical workplaces, due in part to fine segmentation and specialization, the end results of one's work can be less obvious, and the culture of seeking improvement every day is not as strong.

In spreading this culture of constant improvement throughout the Company, it is crucial that employees themselves seek to make changes in their work and be alert to opportunities for improvement. To encourage this, since spring 2019, we have been calling for operational improvement suggestions from throughout the Company under our Creative Suggestion system.*

As a result, Company-wide participation in the Creative Suggestion system has risen from 60% to 90%. However, participation remains low in certain departments, and I think it is too early to say that our corporate culture has truly changed.

While global annual vehicle production has been steadily above 10,000,000 units in recent years, we are now pressed to fund the development of forwardlooking technologies. We are therefore advancing with the understanding that we must continue to vigorously seek cost reduction.

Creative Suggestion
A system launched in 1951 through which employees propose suggestions for improvement.

Creating a Whole That Is Greater than the Sum of Its Parts

Creating a Whole That Is Greater than the Sum of Its Parts

In anticipation of the CASE* era, Toyota is seeking to increase its competitiveness through alliances. The key factor in alliances is people. The mere alignment of company with company does not make either stronger―only when their people come together, helping each other and working with a shared purpose does their competitive strength grow.

In 2018, I started the "Oyaji no Kai," a gathering of experienced technicians from across the Toyota Group. The aim of this gathering is to foster relationships among technicians at different workplaces so that they call one another up to ask for advice and help with front-line issues, such as personnel shortages and workload fluctuations. The group's first meeting was just a casual dinner, but, being so like-minded, the participants quickly hit it off and really did start to help each other from the very next day. Now, they are moving forward with efforts to strengthen relationships between front-line personnel within Group companies. I think that such human connections will bolster the effectiveness of efforts to help regions and businesses recover after natural disasters and other major disruptions, as well.

Sharing knowledge and experience can spark new insights, leading to developments and improvements that one person might never think of alone―I believe that alliances, should, in this way, create a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts.

Connected, Autonomous/Automated, Shared, and Electric.

People: The Core of Manufacturing

People: The Core of Manufacturing

As individuals from different corporate cultures, with different ways of working, increasingly work alongside one another, it is vital that we candidly exchange views and look for opportunities to combine our respective strengths. For this to work, each individual must be a true professional. This entails cultivating both the expertise to swiftly make decisions based on the Kaizen mindset and leadership with a human touch to help others understand and get them on board.

In 2019, I was appointed to the position of Chief Officer of the General Administration & Human Resources Group. Our current training and personnel systems developed during a period of corporate expansion, and I feel that they are now in need of significant revision.

Going forward, we will develop professionals with the following qualities, which are essential in this once-in-a-century transformational period.

  • Can think proactively and take action
  • Can take on new challenges see them through to conclusion
  • Consider continuous self-improvement and continue to contribute throughout their career

We will advance rational, merit-based human resource management, giving proper recognition to those who are doing well, regardless of academic background, age, or formal qualifications. At the same time, we will firmly establish a corporate culture in which everyone constantly seeks to surpass their role models and help nurture junior colleagues who will eventually surpass them.

However markets or industries may evolve, people remain the core of manufacturing. We will continue to do our utmost to develop our people in order to achieve sustainable growth.

December 2019
Mitsuru Kawai
Executive Vice President