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.
Manufacturing Department, Vehicle Division
He joined the company in 1985, being assigned to the Painting Section of the Manufacturing Department in the Vehicle Division. After working as assistance team leader and team leader of the painting process at the 302 Factory, he entered the TPS Dojo (training place). He subsequently served as supervisor of the painting process and as a TPS staff leader, and team leader for Jishuken (autonomous Kaizen study group) of Toyota Group body manufacturers. At present, he is working in the promotion of a project aimed at improving painting quality within the Technical Group of the Manufacturing Department.
I have been involved with automobile paintings since joining the company, but in 2004, at the recommendation of my superior, I entered the TPS Dojo (training place). The first machining and assembly processes I was involved with, together with the high-mix, low volume production line were just like something out of Close Encounters of the Third Kind. Every day I was asking people around me basic questions. Through this, I became a team leader, and ended up taking the initiative and implementing improvements. Awake or asleep, I thought about where improvements could be made, and included my own knowledge and innovations, but really struggled without achieving anything major. However, when I returned to my original workplace, I realized that I had suddenly started coming up with all these ideas for improvements. Through my experience in the TPS Dojo, I think I had taken on board the basics of TPS. I learned that by continuing to strive even in the face of failure can lead to success in many different ways.
In recent years, there is an ever-increasing demand for quality in painted products, and we have launched improvements in order to start up a painting quality project at the Nagakusa Plant. Having set a competitor's factory as the benchmark for quality, we identified 73 areas for improvement, and set about working on each and every one of these. This task seemed as if it would be endless, however by using an activity board to visualize progress, we all worked continuously without regards to post or department, somehow managing to finish. These efforts resulted in us contesting the number one position in the Toyota Group for market quality, leading to major progress being made in quality.
I think that a strength of our company is in our culture of consistently continuing with such improvements, and of paying close attention to these over the long-term. Evolution will stop if we give up on making improvements. "Once improvements are completed, it's time for more."
My former superior often said these words. This showed me the importance of not being satisfied with the status quo or of giving up, and instead, moving on to the next thing. I think I understand this better now. I believe that always being attuned to what is happening, and continuing with improvements given limited time is a source of growth.