Looking Ahead to a Toyota Tour by Looking Back


I'm excited that I have a chance, on Wednesday, to tour the Toyota plant in San Antonio, TX. I'm going with a “Lean Austin” group that has a group tour (I'm flying down from DFW for the day, establishing some ties between our local “Lean DFW” efforts and the Austin group.

As I look ahead to the tour, I'm preparing by looking back and thinking back to my chance to tour the NUMMI plant back in 2005. It may seem like a repeat of material, but many of you weren't reading my blog back then, so I'm posting some links to my previous posts about NUMMI and adding fresh comments below…

I did a six-part series of posts at the time (click on the headers for the posts).

NUMMI Tour Tale #1: Why Fix the Escalator?

In this post, I wrote about how the NUMMI tour guide explained away the broken escalator, saying there were working stairs, it would be waste to fix it (they had inherited the escalator from the building's earlier days as the GM Fremont plant. See the post for the whole story. Was NUMMI being unnecessarily cheap or appropriately frugal?

The post has drawn many comments over time, including some people claiming to be employees or former employees who called them “cheap bastards.” Sheesh.

NUMMI Tour Tale #2: The Power of Reynolds Wrap

Here, I wrote about an example I saw where a little bit of aluminum foil saved a lot of cleanup time. Seemed like a great example of kaizen at work.

NUMMI Tour Tale #3: The Power of Why

This is one of my favorite stories that highlights the mindset of having “Respect for People” in a very concrete way. This was a huge light bulb moment for me. You don't just “ask why” you also “explain why” in a Lean culture. Very powerful stuff, I think.

NUMMI Tour Tale #4: The Pull Gift Shop

The NUMMI gift shop wasn't a physical display with inventory. It was a “pull system” with items delivered to you at the end of the tour.

NUMMI Tour Tale #5: Nobody is Perfect

Our tour guide (a NUMMI employee) owned up to how they had “gotten away from doing “standard work audits” over time. Discipline and consistency are very difficult to sustain, I guess that is a very human trait of ours. They said it was one of the GM people urging the Toyota NUMMI people to re-gain their discipline.

NUMMI Tour Tales #6: “You Get What You Inspect”

In the final post, I talk about the tour guide using a very powerful expression:

“You get what you inspect, not what you expect.”

After the tour, I will write about what I see in San Antonio.

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  1. […] There was a lot to absorb and I’m still mentally digesting much of it, so I’ll write a number of blog posts over the next few weeks as I did with my NUMMI tour of five years ago. […]

  2. […] in the mid ’90s, we had a plant manager who was one of the first GM people sent to work at NUMMI out in California. I think that leadership style is not completely autocratic. It’s certainly […]

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