Thursday, August 23, 2012

Toyota Motor Manufacturing

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For over a decade Toyota motor company has been the leading auto manufacturing in quality, customer satisfaction, and affordability. But in the spring of 1 Toyota Motor Manufacturing (TMM) in Georgetown, Kentucky noticed a problem. They were beginning to see more and more cars coming off the assembly line with mal functioning or defective rear seats. Why now would such a problem arise? At first glance the seat issued looked to be a supplier based problem but upon further investigation the true reason for the problem began to come to light.

Toyota’s prided itself on building a production system designed to reduce costs by thoroughly, eliminating waste while upholding the highest quality standards in the industry. Toyota achieved this goal by applying two principles, first they employed the JIT production system, and subsequent they applied the jidoka principle, which effectively makes any production problem instantly self-evident and stops the production immediately.

These two systems were employed in the Kentucky manufacturing plant and they were working very well for every other portion of the assembly line but the seat installation station. How could a system work so efficiently in one area and so poorly in another? This is the question facing Toyota’s assembly manager Doug Friesen.

The Seat Problem

Doug Friesen is the manager of assembly, for Toyota’s Georgetown, plant, and he is responsible for the entire production floor. Currently Toyota is having a problem with their rear seat installation and Doug in the man on the line to fix the seat problem. Doug first course of action is to identify the root cause, and then create a mitigation plan. Toyota’s seat problem was costing them approx 45 cars per shift and several hours a week of overtime. It is clear to Doug that the problem lies between TMM and their seat supplier Kentucky Framed Seat (KFS).

The problem began to propagate itself in early 1 when the Toyota was preparing to introduce the new model Camry. The new Camry had 5 seat styles instead of the three styles used by the old model, and to complicate the issue Toyota began production of the Camry wagon (world wide) in April of 1 . This created an increase in seat combination from in early 1 to 18 in April.

All the new combinations caused a major interruption in the TMM, and KFS production process, the old magic system had lost some of its magic. Now KFS was responsible for 18 seat combination and the following problems resulted at the TMM facility

• The rear seat andon pulls have soared by 450% and 150% for the 1st and nd shifts respectively, during April.

• Defects are mostly the responsibility of KFS, and KFS owns on average 85% of the defects found in seats on a single day (see Figure 1).

With KFS owning 85% of the defects on the TMM production floor Doug knows that it is now time to make changes and identify exactly why they are having so much trouble with the rear seats.

In Doug’s attempt to adequately address the problem he interviewed his assembly teams and found very few new problems. His assembly staff could not think of anything new that could cause the problem with the seats. This leaves Doug with a couple options internally, first he could reassign the seat assembly teams and bring on more experienced crew to solve the problem, he could improve the off-line operations in the cases where manages decided to continue correcting seats off-line, and lastly he could address the issue of overworking KFS.

Figure 1

As Doug Friesen, I would concentrate my efforts on the root case of the problem and not the outcome of the problem. The solution to the rear seat problem should be addressed in a dual effort attack. First, KFS should be contacted to identify exactly why the rear seats are having problems. With this TMM and KFS should work closely together to complete a process evaluation to narrow down the possible sources of the defects. Subsequently, I would concentrate on TMM in-house problem. As we can see from Figure II (In Appendix I) the andon pulls (along the seat installation stations) in April increased gradually throughout the month. This clearly indicates a problem with the installation of the rear seat. TMM must look into the following three internal issues to resolve this problem.

• Increased number of defective items from supplier (KFS), defects build on defects

• Gradual decline in part quality, such as screws, fixtures, tools etc.

• New Team members in the rear seat installation group still learning

The issue with KFS can be solved by working closely with their management team to education and train their employees. The issue of part quality can be easily controlled by addressing the issue with the production control foreman and the purchasing agents responsible for those parts.

The last issue is with TMM’s new team members. Data shows that the increase in andon pulls occurred when the new crew was assigned to the rear seat assembly section. This is more than likely the major cause of the in house based defects. TMM could combat this problem by partner each new employee with a more experience mentor and have the senior employee train the junior employee as an apprentice until they are ready to work on their own.

Is this Toyota Production System?

As far as deviation from the Toyota Production System, the manner in which the seat problem was handled is far from jidoka. Jidoka calls for building quality into the production process and strongly condemns any deviation from value-additions. The seat defects were not being corrected immediately upon their detection, and therefore the process was being violated. By allowing the defective seats to go into the system as defects Toyota broke its own rules. In this case the cars with defective seats were allowed to slip though the system for the following reasons

1. The final assembly people already knew of the problem

. It was possible to finish building the car without seat assemblies

. It was felt that stopping the line was too expensive given how long to took to obtain the replacement seat.

The breach of the jidoka system ended up costing Toyota a significant amount of time and money to identify and correct the problem. Because cars were allowed to be completed with a defective seat the problem was essential swept under the carpet until it could contain no more. This action caused Toyota’s famed quality control system to fail. Toyota celebrated production control systems were so perfect that they where able to increase production while reducing cost. But with this seat issue Toyota began to become a reactive company instead of a proactive company.

The Real Problem

Fortunately for Toyota, the real problem facing is Doug Friesen is not a lack of policy and procedure, but instead it is a deviation from the standard procedure. The seat issue should have been quashed the first time it appeared as a problem. But management did not understand the overall problem so they allowed PC, QC, and team leader to send the defective car on down the line. Their actions allowed this seat problem to promulgate itself into a major problem. But Toyota’s superior quality controls system and their proactive approach allowed Doug and his assembly team to catch the problem before it reached the consumer. This situation just goes to show the “an ounce of prevention is “truly” worth a pound of cure.”

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