Notes from ISPE - Toyota on the Toyota Production System

Taichi OhnoInstallment 4 The Toyota Production System is guiding more pharma manufacturing managers today.  To ensure that attendees got the story from its source, ISPE invited a top Toyota executive, Gary Convis, senior executive advisor for Toyota Motor Engineering and Manufacturing, to speak about the system.  Mr. Convis is one of those charged with keeping Taichi Ohno's (shown, left, during a plant inspection in the 1950s) flame burning within the corporation. Convis noted the company's phenomenal growth.  In 70 years, Toyota has become the world's leading automotive manufaacturer, making product in 64 companies and 27 countries with nearly 300,000 employees.  Toyota employs 40,000 people in the U.S. alone, creating "spinoff employment" of 400,000.  However, he says, the auto industry shares the difficulties that pharma may face in attempting "right first time" production and in bringing human beings into the equation.  The struggle is to do R&D right, while meeting customer demands and reducing costs.  He recalled coming to the U.S. in 1957, when Toyota sold its first vehicle, the Crown, in the U.S.  The model was an utter failure, lacking sufficient power to make it up the California hills and along the freeways.  Toyota pulled it out and bcame back three years later with an improved model.  The company has invested over $18 billion in its U.S. manufacturing operations and has two new plants under construction, one in Woodstock, Ontario, Canada, and the other in Mississippi. When he first went to Japan, Convis says, he saw that operations ran like an orchestra. "Everyone seemed to know exactly what to do.  They all played their tunes in perfect harmony, as if under the influence of an invisible conductor.  I knew this could only happen in an environment characterized by teamwork, cooperation and continuous improvement." Convis was hired to implement TPS in Fremond California, in a closed factory where management and operations relationship was terrible and product quality was poor.  The plant had been shut down for three years, and the company wound up rehiring 85% of the old workforce. Convis likens Toyota engineers to physician/diagnosticians. "They observe the process, diagnose problems, and decide, together, how to solve problems and how to look for ways to improve." One prerequisite is motivating people toward the ideal, by developing systems and tools that make it clear where to focus management attention.  These visual tools include production analysis boards, direct run, process diagnostics, stacked element charts and KPI charts. He also advises, go and see what people on the floor are doing.  Convis says he parks his car about a quarter mile away from the production plant, and takes a different route to his office (which he moved, several years ago, from the building entrance to the plant floor area) each day, just to talk with, and watch, a different work group. "The highest product quality, lowest costs and shortest lead times can only be gained by engaging and developing people," he said.  "Don't cheerlead.  Go and see what your people are doing, grasp actual conditions, observe carefully, humbly benchmark against others and listen carefully to what others are saying." He recalls a technique of Taichi Ohno (father of the Toyota Production System):   "When he was training people, he'd draw a circle around them on the plant floor and say, "Look, stay here and observe what's going on."  It's amazing what you can learn by doing this." Convis emphasized the importance of using standard tools and standardized work processes to solve problems.  He also says that "customer" needs to be understood, not only as the final distributor or consumer of the product, but the next person in the product value chain---the person dependent on whatever work you have been assigned. It would take some transformation to get pharma facilities to resemble car factories in their use of 5-S and standardized work processes, as well as continuous flow, pull systems, kanbans and visual management.   Convis visited some plants and noted the huge inventories of incoming material, works in progress and finished goods.  "There's great opportunity for continuous improvement," he noted. "IN particular, reducing the inventories of incoming materials." Convis also gave listeners a brief Japanese lesson, discussing Jidoka, and the need to build quality into the manufacturing process, mentioning error proofing (poka yoke) and Andon, the process by which management, maintenance and other workers are notified of any quality or manufacturing problem. Heijunka, or leveling the work, is also the key to reducing quality fluctuations, he said. Convis emphasized the importance of the individual and the "help chain," in which employees expose and attack problems, seek out their root causes, then move to fix them and avoid future occurrences, one by one. Toyota views people as its most important asset, and, typically goes through 100 people to hire just three or four, he said, summarizing some of the key aspects of any successful manufacturing program as:.  
  • Kaizen

  • Genchi genbutsu - going back to the source, discovering the facts and building consensus about how to solve the problem

  • Teamwork

  • Respect

  • Involvement