Lean at NUMMI

Society of Manufacturing Engineers

Here’s a good overview of the Toyota/GM “Joint Venture” plant, NUMMI. I put “JV” in quotes because, sure there is joint ownership, but it’s not really jointly managed.

A manager at NUMMI says:

Most people are under the impression that since NUMMI’s a joint venture there is a very strong involvement from GM on the operation side, but in reality there isn’t,” says Gonzalez-Beltran. “NUMMI is run like any other NAMC [North American Manufacturing Company], as a Toyota plant, basically. All of our direction, all of our policies and long-term plans are basically in line with TMC [Toyota] policies and plans, so–other than the board of directors, which is divided 50:50 between GM and Toyota–we do not see a lot of the GM side.

There are some good stories about how the lean culture was adopted at NUMMI and how they have taken efforts over the past few years to refresh their TPS knowledge. When I visited NUMMI in 2005, the people there freely admitted that they had placed a focus on re-learning and re-training TPS.

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This quote also jumped out at me:

“Lean manufacturing is a necessity for us, in order to stay in business and remain competitive,” Gonzalez-Beltran states. “The application of TPS and lean manufacturing is the only tool that we have to offset the high cost of doing business in California. That’s why we put special emphasis and always try to stay at the leading edge of any new developments or new techniques to make our operation leaner and more efficient.”

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Compare this to how GM complains about their legacy costs. Toyota is taking action, through TPS, to reduce costs and get more competitive in spite of California cost disadvantages. Imagine if GM could do the same thing.

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Mark Graban's passion is creating a better, safer, more cost effective healthcare system for patients and better workplaces for all. Mark is a consultant, author, and speaker in the "Lean healthcare" methodology. He is author of the Shingo Award-winning books Lean Hospitals and Healthcare Kaizen, as well as The Executive Guide to Healthcare Kaizen. His most recent project is an book titled Practicing Lean that benefits the Louise H. Batz Patient Safety Foundation, where Mark is a board member. Mark is also the VP of Improvement & Innovation Services for the technology company KaiNexus.

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