In 1933, when Kiichiro Toyoda went to New York for a business trip, little did he know that he would be sowing the seed which would grow to be the world’s largest producer of automobiles. Stepping into New York, Kichiro witnessed the automobile revolution and dreamt of doing the same in Japan. However, resources were low and he could not find suppliers as quickly. Hard work paid off eventually and the first Toyota model was on the road in 1937. Almost 75 years on, Toyota stands as one of the top automobile companies on the global front.
Toyota started its Indian innings with the launch of the Qualis in early 2000. Since then it has come a long way in the Indian market with the Toyota Innova being its best selling vehicle in the country. The company’s production facility is based in Bidadi, near Bangalore, and is one of the best plants in the Asia Pacific Region. The plant measures about 400 acres and is running at full capacity to churn out models such as the Innova, Fortuner, Corolla Altis, Etios and Liva. We visit the plant and check whats so special about ‘The Toyota Way’ of doing things.
‘The Toyota Way’ as it is called is a set of principles and behaviors that underlie the Toyota Motor Corporation’s managerial approach and production systems. It is based on two key principles, continuous improvement and respect for people. The principles set by Toyota are so efficient and powerful, they feature in most management books and have become part of the curriculum for business schools. Our day at the plant was divided into several parts with the first stop being the Gurukul.
1. Gurukul – As the name suggests, the Gurukul is a learning center. Employees have to first undergo a 7 day training program wherein they are not just taught about the job to be done but also how to minimize error and work more efficiently. Human resources play an important role in any manufacturing unit and Toyota gives due importance to them. Employees are also taught about various exercises which can reduce the stress on the body. The Gurukul has trained more than 6500 employees till date and there are competitions held within the Gurukul to provide opportunities to maximize individual performance and realize self fulfillment. The winners compete at a regional level (Thailand). The winners from the regional round compete at an International level, which is held in Japan.
2. Plant Visit – Toyota operates two plants in the same facility. The old plant manufactures the Innova and Fortuner, while the new one produces the Altis, Etios and Liva. We had a chance to see the second of the two in operation. The press shop makes use of two heavy duty A Servo (1600 tonnes) and C Servo (3000 tonnes) machines which give shape to the metal sheets fed in. Together they produce 104 different parts for Etios, Liva, Innova and Fortuner. The press shop works in two shifts and has an annual production capacity of 1,20,000 parts. Even the fork lift drivers are specially trained to ensure quick movement of parts into the designated areas.
The weld shop takes pride in almost 47 percent automation. There are more than 160 robots employed to ensure quick and efficient processes. Samples are frequently checked at random to confirm the accuracy of the weld.
Just one of the things which is not usually seen in most of the other manufacturers facilities in India, is the use of AGV’s (Automatically Guided Vehicles). These vehicles look small but are capable of much more. They can carry the body shells after welding and get them to the paint shop. They run without any tracks and use magnetic tape for direction, which is laid out on the floor to guide them. The computer makes sure that no two AGV’s collide by ensuring a safe distance is maintained between any two vehicles.
The next stop was the paint shop. Toyota is committed to work for a greener future and undertakes various initiatives for a brighter tomorrow. In the paint shop, Toyota employs environment friendly painting processes, which uses only 10 percent solvent as compared to the 70 percent used by the conventional painting process. The 60 percent deficit is eliminated by using water. Besides the paint shop, Toyota also has a water recycling facility on the premises and also undertakes ‘Green Tomorrow’ initiatives such a afforestation. We too got a chance to be a part of this green initiative by planting a sapling in the premises.
The last stop in the plant was the assembly line. The assembly line uses 3 – 4 lines before the final product is ready. After getting off the assembly line, it passes through the shower test and rope test to ensure there is no leakage and unusual sound respectively.
3. Interview with TKAP (Toyota Kirloskar Auto Parts) – After a sumptuous lunch at the Toyota canteen, we met a few officials from TKAP. This organization is based inside the premises itself and manufactures engines (gasoline) and transmissions for Etios/Liva. Toyota does not have a diesel engine manufacturing facility as yet and though they have been doing a feasibility study regarding the same, the decision will be based on long term Government plans about diesel subsidy and whether or not it will levy additional tax on diesel cars. Currently the diesel engines (D-4D) are imported from Thailand for Innova and Fortuner while the Etios and Corolla engines come down from Japan. TKAP also supplies transmission to Indonesia and Thailand. They will also be exporting gasoline engines to Brazil, Argentina and Indonesia by January 2013.
4. Visit to Toyota Technical Training Institute (TTTI) – Toyota established the TTTI in 2007 as a part of CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility). Even though it may be a part of CSR programme, it is indeed a very noble thought by the Japanese giant. TTTI trains students from economically poor backgrounds, coming from various parts of rural Karnataka. 64 students are selected per year and they are given 3 year training to be skilled technicians in auto manufacturing and plant administration.
The institute is a fully residential school providing education free of cost to the students. Besides imparting knowledge on auto manufacturing, the curriculum includes basic subjects and recreational activities. The students get stipend and deserving students are awarded fellowships for excellence. The purpose of technical training institute is to give the students an opportunity to acquire special skills of ‘Monozukuri’ (concept of skilled manufacturing). After the course is completed, students have no compulsion to join Toyota, they can join whichever company they may like, however more than 98 percent students end up joining Toyota.
5. Visit to Supplier (Motherson Automotive Technologies & Engineering) – Most of the suppliers to Toyota Kirloskar Motors are located in and around the plant. These strategic locations minimize the transit time between supplier and the plant. Motherson Automotive Technologies are the largest manufacturers of rear view mirrors. They manufacture components such as dashboards, wiring harnesses, instrument panels, door trims, etc and supply to a host of manufacturers including Honda, Ford, Tata, GM, Volkswagen Hyundai, Nissan and Toyota.
Motherson Automotive follow the Toyota principles of manufacturing and have a 100 percent record for on time delivery and use the Kanban principle for delivering goods on time. ‘Kanban’ is a Japanese term that literally means ‘signboard’ or ‘billboard’. Taiichi Ohno, the father of the Toyota Production System, used this term to refer to a scheduling system that allowed Toyota employees to visualize what they needed to produce, how much to produce, and when to produce it.
Errors are eliminated by using the Kaizen, which is a daily process, the purpose of which goes beyond simple productivity improvement. It is also a process that, when done correctly, humanizes the workplace, eliminates overly hard work (‘muri’), and teaches people how to perform experiments on their work using the scientific method and how to learn to spot and eliminate waste in business processes. In all, the process suggests a humanized approach to workers and also increases productivity.
Toyota’s success is definitely attributed to the way they function and how they work in close relation to their principles. We observed during our visit that they manage to optimize the various processes in a way which improves efficiency and reduces errors. Besides, their Customer First and Respect for People approach ensures a healthy and positive atmosphere not only in the plant but also in the Toyota ownership experience.