The Story of Sakichi Toyoda
Sakichi Toyoda, the founder of Toyota Industries Corporation, possessed a strong ambition to contribute to society from his days as a youth. He had devoted his 63-year-long life to invention.
TMHG Global Product Planning Department, Takahama Plant
He joined the company in 1990. He was assigned to the Industrial Vehicle Division Research Department, responsible for future functional development. From 2001, he was based in Belgium, traveling throughout Europe, carrying out in-depth on-site investigations of customer needs. After this, he was involved in a joint development between CESAB and Takahama, through which he came to understand the importance of local development at locations outside Japan. In 2010, he traveled to Europe again, and assisted in on-site development under CESAB, working on the Triago 80 which was well-received both in and outside Japan. Using the experience gained in approximately 10 years overseas, he is currently now the head of the TMHG Global Product Planning Department at the Takahama Plant.
In 2006, while living in Europe, we saw the start of a joint development of an electric lift truck by Italy-based CESAB and Takahama Plant. This was our first full-scale joint development outside Japan, with our tour-de-force Triago48 being completed in 2009. However, this was at the peak of the global economic recession. Although the product was lauded in terms of functionality, specifications, usage, and design, problems of noise for the operator as well as high costs were highlighted, and it faced difficulty in the market. At this time, as an assistant chief engineer, it was my job to coordinate between Italy and Japan. I realized that development needs to be conducted under the initiative of local staff. Joint development at that time could not overcome the overburdening feeling from Takahama, and I felt local motivation was a little lacking. The appropriate attitude would have been a clear separation of roles, with the local site, familiar with markets and cultures, being in charge of product and production planning as well as development; with Takahama providing assessment standards and support for quality—with each party leveraging their own strengths.
The Triago80 which was developed in response to this during my second appointment used local control, accurately taking on board local needs, and became a major hit. Additionally, Takahama also provided assistance with the introduction of the design review (DR) process. While there were many items to manage, and the challenge of many changes when compared to the CESAB development process, we continued with discussions as a necessary step in Toyota brand quality, and introduced this with local agreement. DR subsequently became rooted as a part of the culture, and was deployed not only into the CESAB local development, but also horizontally deployed to local developments in other major manufacturing sites.
When I think about globalization, I do not mean having Japanese methods foisted upon locations outside Japan. Instead, this should be based upon respect, including checking with each other, competing as rivals yet still with a relationship of trust, and taking the best part of what each other can provide. People in our manufacturing bases outside Japan avidly absorbs what is good, and uses this to improve the capabilities of their manufacturing locations. If all of our employees do not strive to enhance their expertise as professionals, and continue to improve their speed and judgment, then there is no way that we will be able to prevail in this harsh global environment. However, please do not forget to have a spark of humor, or of playfulness. Such a mindset is essential in globalization.