Toyota to Close NUMMI Plant in Fremont

In a sad turning point in Toyota's history, and, perhaps the whole history of the Lean movement, Toyota  plans to liquidate the Lean showcase NUMMI plant in Fremont, California "by the end of August." Read more from yesterday's story in the San Francisco Business News.

The writing was on the wall when GM pulled out of the venture, but talks had been underway to save the facility's 4,700 jobs. The facility indirectly contributes to the employment of 15,000 in the Bay area.

I had the privilege of visitng the facility, as one of the last tour groups, and wrote a brief description of that tour. What can one say, except to hope that all its highly skilled and enthusiastic workers soon find employment, particularly Sara Rogers, its former tour guide and ambassador, who tirelessly distilled the essence of the Toyota Production System and explained it, in a funny, interesting and down to earth way, to facility visitors. She likely did more to advance Kaizen than many consultants who claim to be experts in the subject.

Clearly, those working, in all levels, at the facility have skills that any employer would want. Perhaps the plant will be bought?

Could biotech be a future option for NUMMI workers, with retraining? BioPlan Associates, in its in-depth analysis of biopharma, projects that 33% of new jobs in bio will be in manufacturing operations by 2012. Another 16% will be in QA and QC, and yet another 8% in management.

But that's likely small comfort. 2012 still seems a long way off.