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.
Production Control Department, Engine Division
He joined the company in 1985. He was assigned to the Engineering Section, Manufacturing Department, Vehicle Division, mainly involved in production control including parts arrangement. He was involved in the construction of parts arrangement systems including bill of materials (BOM) systems, especially electronic kanban system. He then experienced setting up production plans in the Production Control Department, and was transferred to the Engine Division Production Control Department. From 2010 he has been the head of the Production Control Department, and is currently focusing his efforts on rebuilding production control systems.
I was first assigned to the Vehicle Division, in the Manufacturing Department's Engineering Section. I was mainly handling parts arrangement. My work at the time was hectic—my job included manually counting kanban cards, separating these by customer, and by calculating required numbers of kanban cards in accordance with the production plan, either increasing or decreasing order volumes so as to avoid missing or excess parts inventory. This work gradually became more automated, and over 10 years ago, we introduced "an electronic kanban system" as a part of the plan, the effect of which has been to steadily reduce management man-hours.
However, recently what I feel is that compared with before, techniques and tools have become more developed, and work has become more efficient, but I can't help but thinking that there are now fewer opportunities for careful thinking about the very essence of what work actually is. Now, in line with the production plan, the system automatically calculates the numbers of kanban cards required, and It is now no longer necessary to have a detailed understanding of why this particular number of kanban cards is required, as it was before. This has had the result that if trouble occurs in some area, it now takes longer to understand the details of this, with an increase of people who are unable to handle these problems, and improvements tending toward being only superficial.
At present, in the Engine Division, I am involved with rebuilding the core systems in production management in order to achieve collective visualization of production status for 50 lines that include casting, machining, and assembly. However, regardless of this initiative being long-awaited, I am confirming with people in charge their vision of the future in order that I can successfully go along with it. Anywhere has this in common, however it is important to take a medium- to long-term perspective without being bound by precedent, and to describe your own path, even if it is only 60 or 70% your own doing. Draw a line above this, saying "this is what I'll do." Doing this will surely ensure improvements, without your losing sight of the future.