By Jon Miller | Post Date: January 1, 2008 8:34 PM | Comments: 3
Toyota entered the popular consciousness in 2007 by overtaking General Motors as the number one automobile manufacturer in the world by vehicles sold. Those of us who study lean manufacturing know that Toyota with its production system has been the best in the world for a few decades. The media spotlight on Toyota in 2007 had to do with the two areas of increasing sales and declining quality. We're making no predictions, but Toyota President Watanabe's 2008 New Year's greeting singles out the idea of sustainability. Watanabe says:
In addition to further development of hybrid gasoline-electric vehicles and environmental education for the community, Watanabe discusses sustainability in manufacturing:
To this end Toyota selected model plants in various regions, including the plant in Mississippi currently under construction.
"The main feature of the sustainable plant concept is plant development from the following three perspectives: achieving groundbreaking environmental performance by introducing innovative technology and kaizen (improvement) activities; using renewable energy, including biomass and natural energy sources, such as solar power and wind power; contributing to the local community and conserving the environment by planting trees in and around plants."
We have learned to switch our thinking from "guaranteeing 100% quality is costly" to "quality is free," to borrow a phrase from Philip Crosby. Likewise lean thinkers think of safety as a prerequisite for a productive, high quality work environment and strive for safety first and zero accidents, rather than accepting that accidents happen. Yet it sometimes seems that many manufacturers, policymakers and ordinary citizens in the United States have not quite made the shift in thinking when it comes to the issue of environmental protection, pollution prevention and sustainability as a way to improve our quality of life rather than as a cost.
Some people have asked, "What's next?" after lean manufacturing has been fully implemented by the book and they are at a mature state as a learning enterprise. Avoiding the "you never arrive" argument of the lean journey for the moment, we can reflect on the message from Toyota, half a century after they began their lean transformation in earnest. Toyota may be emphasizing the sustainable manufacturing just to do the right thing for the planet. Or they may be doing sustainable manufacturing to develop their people by focus them on a new horizon for kaizen - the environment. Or perhaps Toyota figured out that sustainability is free.Comments are moderated to filter spam and inappropriate content. There may be a delay before your comment is published.