Refining Manufacturing


Inheriting the spirit of Kaizen (continuous improvement) from our predecessors,
applying new knowledge and expertise,
and digging even deeper.

Masanori Shirahama

Production Control Dept., Production Headquarters

He is currently the head of the Production Control Department, Production Headquarters. He joined the company in 1971. He was assigned to the Painting Section at the Nagakusa Plant's Vehicle Production Department, he learned about various processes, and was transferred to the Engineering Staff Office. He subsequently served as the head of the Painting Group, Assembly Section, and Manufacturing Department in the Vehicle Division. Appointed to the current position in 2008.

When asked about improving manufacturing, the first thing that comes to mind is improving levels of SQCD (Safety, Quality, Cost and Delivery) and the Toyota Production System (TPS), but our company's area of expertise is in developing human resources. In addition to our stratified employee education programs, our TPS Dojo (training place), Jishuken (autonomous Kaizen study group) activities, and daily on-the-job training together are like a rugby scrum, continuously pushing forward with educating our personnel. As a result, there is a high awareness of personnel education within the company, and there is active enthusiasm for training amongst both recipients of this, and their superiors. I have never seen a company put so much effort into training their personnel.

However, one area that I think could be improved is in inheriting improvements from our predecessors, and building upon these. Innovative ideas do not suddenly emerge out of the blue, instead occurring to those who have a foundation of long-accumulated knowledge. When we look again at the details of the improvements made, we can see that based upon the TPS, our predecessors continually repeated the question "why?" However, upon further examination, it is clear that some issues remain because of limitations to production technologies or site capabilities at that time. Improvements do not end; and as time goes by, they may become outdated. By using our new expertise and techniques, we can confront challenges passed on to us by technicians from that time, and use this increased depth to achieve results, letting us inherit the know-how passed on to us by our predecessors. Are there any processes that, after improvements, continue unchanged for several years? Casting a fresh look at these may lead to improvements. Looking towards the future, and embracing the spirit of building upon improvements every single day is what I mean by "depth" in manufacturing. I hope that people in managerial positions make a priority out of putting this spirit into practice.