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  • Writer's pictureRitwic Singh

How effective is Toyota's Just-in-Time Practice?

The production refinement system employed by Toyota is vaguely similar to the approach used by Maruti Suzuki in India. I interned at their manufacturing facility for a month and spent a large portion of my time studying their facility and process design. When Maruti was acquired by Suzuki, they adopted their quality management systems as well. This led to a system-wide overhaul in the production facilities, supplier relations and system maintenance. This in-turn rapidly led to Maruti Suzuki India (MSIL) to become the largest manufacturer in India.

The emphasis on review and response to feedback through all tiers of their manufacturing, sales and marketing process led them to build their reputation of quality and customer satisfaction while maintaining a lineup of high efficiency, low cost vehicles. Maintaining a similar organized approach in design can definitely increase a designer’s output and efficiency.

MSIL too, like Toyota adapted their system using facilities design to design the shortest and cheapest route to create a part from raw material to finishing and fitting the part in a vehicle. Their suppliers were also required to adopt similar principles when dealing with the company and expected to deliver on time and with a high degree of quality. Though it sounds a bit juvenile, MSIL employed use of lights and colors to indicate the part and/or process to work for the workers on the shop floor. This led to a drop in error by a considerable margin and led to record times of car production that much larger manufacturers often struggle to match.

Most car manufacturers have a tough time in understanding and much more importantly, implementing the system taught by Toyota as the implementation technique falls short of its mark. Toyota employs a system which ensures that every manager knows and has done the same work that their subordinates and people much further down the chain are doing. This leads to an approach to teaching which requires a certain balance of humility and self-confidence, a trait which is evident in good leaders. This helps in maintaining an understanding of mistakes and errors which rookies often tend to commit.

The concept of understanding humans and their ability to commit mistakes and often not achieving the expected outcome is the most fruitful research a corporation can do to increase potency. This helps design and develop systems and countermeasures to learn from an error and realize the root-cause of the problem at hand. This in turn influences the employees to understand the common areas of concern and work at solving them.

What stood out most for me is the almost compulsive need to organize and plan leads to a high efficiency and low waste. This concept has application wider than design or manufacturing or maybe even life itself. The order and understanding of where everything is going from the beginning to the end and doing so in the shortest, cheapest way possible helps improve every aspect of the entire operation.

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