Toyota Texas Tour – Concepts From the Visitor Center
I’ll start the week with another post about my tour of the TMMTX (Toyota Motor Manufacturing Texas) plant in San Antonio. Today I’ll write about the visitor center – other than having Toyota vehicles on display, what does the company emphasize with the general public? Not surprisingly, to this readership, there was a big focus on the Toyota Way and the Toyota Production System.
One of the concepts and phrases that visitors see is “Respect for People.” I was very glad to see that.
The first signs you see talk about Toyota’s history and, of course, the Toyoda family’s role – from the weaving loom to cars. Behind an old pickup truck is the phrase “70 years of continuous improvement.” The discussion of Sakichi Toyoda focuses on the core Toyota Way principle of “Respect for People” being a driver of continuous improvement (or “kaizen”).
A video describes the Toyota philosophy of “Never best, only better.”
Taiichi Ohno is featured as “the father of TPS” (without any mention of Shigeo Shingo, considered an equally important figure by many).
A large display board asks “Can you speak Toyota?” with some really well-known and more obscure Japanese words:
- Kaizen (continuous improvement)
- Nemawashi (building ideas through consensus)
- Genchi Genbutsu (go and see)
- Jishuken (targeted problem solving)
- Poka Yoke (mistake proofing)
- Jidoka (quality at the source)
The phonetic pronunciation surprised me, being listed as “poku yokee.”
Heijunka and Kanban were also emphasized in a separate wall discussing “just in time” production.
An interesting phrase that was used in the visitor center (and the tour) was to describe production workers as “industrial athletes,” with a big focus being placed on physical fitness. Employees are given access to an on-site gym and personal trainers to help prepare them for the physical work (for example, the potential strain of working overhead with tools). There seemed to be a very strong focus on ergonomics, in addition to safety. Many of the employee kaizen ideas were focused around ergonomic improvements.
One other display showed an exercise they use for testing hand-eye coordination and physical abilities of potential employees (wrapping a rope around a series of pegs coming out of the wall). There was some “standardized work” posted on the wall, but it went to show (even if this wasn’t the point of the demonstration) that a document alone doesn’t train people. I had nobody coaching me (and my hand/eye coordination isn’t world class), so I struggled. It was an interesting example of some of the selection methods – looking for physical and personality traits (being able to do the work AND contribute to continuous improvement).
“Respect for people” was emphasized in terms of employes, suppliers (“Team Texas”), and the community (including an environmental focus). They are working to have TMMTX be a zero-landfill facility, including recycling steel scraps from stamping, etc.
I was surprised to see how much of the focus was on TPS. You’d think the general public just wants to know how cars are built (and the visitor center does explain stamping, paint, etc.). But it’s apparently Toyota is proud of TPS as a core of who they are. I think the visitor center is proof of that.
I’ll blog in future posts about their welcoming intro session and the plant itself.