In his book, Toyota Production System, Taichi Ohno mentions that his boss challenged him to implement "standard work."
Who was this boss?
His name is Taizo Ishida.
The third president of Toyota Motor Corporation was considered the restorer of Toyota.
This gentleman's interesting philosophies impacted many engineers who developed TPS, Toyota, and Japan.
This is a short story about his life.
Ishida was born in 1888 in the small village of Tokoname. (For the sake of simplicity, I will use Ishida, but his last name was Sawada.) The luckiest thing that happened to him was that this village had one of the best elementary schools at that time in Japan. The local Sake brewer funded the school. The school founder's grandson is Akio Morita, the founder of SONY. Morita grew up in Nagoya City, but until he was in middle school, Ishida and the Toyoda family lived in the same neighborhood. Morita claimed he visited Ishida’s place while some Toyoda family played with Morita. Morita tried to develop Electronic Fuel Injection system with Toyota. I don’t know if this started because Morita was a neighbor of the Toyoda family or the relationship with Ishida. But this is one of Ishida’s life full of excellent Japanese engineers.
Upon graduation from elementary school, Ishida was lost since he had nowhere to go. Fortunately, his distant relative allowed continuing Ishida’s education. This relative is Itizo Kodama, who eventually becomes the primary investor of Sakichi Toyoda. Not only he invested the money, but his younger brother, Risaburo, married Sakichi’s daughter and became part of the Toyoda family.
[Relationships with the Toyoda family]
When Ishida worked in a trading company, he was introduced to Sakichi around 1920. And in 1927, Ishida joined Toyota as an assistant to Risaburo. Ishida claimed that he was a student of Sakichi and respected him. His responsibility was always to support the business.
Ishida was initially against the automobile business due to cost. Yet, once the automobile business started, he supported it in many ways. In 1950, when Toyota was in a crisis, Ishida became the third president, succeeding Kiichiro Toyoda. Ishida made the speech upon his nominee that once the turnaround was made, he would restate Kiichiro as the president of Toyota. The bankers booed this. Ishida made the turnaround. Unfortunately, Kiichiro passed away, and Ishida was committed to training the next generations of the Toyoda family. Eiji, Shoichiro, Tatsuro. Ishida trained all these members of the family. For example, Eiji was the one that wanted to introduce “Quality control” to Toyota. This was made when Ishida approved. Ishida agreed after he heard that this was the best way to be profitable. Ishida was always concerned about business.
[Relationship with Ohno]
Ishida won an honorary citizen of Kariya City in 1957 with a partner. The partner’s name is Itizo Ohno, father of Taiichi Ohno. Itizo was an engineer and a plant manager (surprise?), and he became the politician of Kariya in 1923. His first success was inviting Toyota to make a factory in Kariya. One of Ishida’s primary responsibilities was buying land for factories. He was acting as head of operations and supply chain. Toyota group companies have their headquarters and primary factories in Kariya today. Kariya City is one of the wealthiest cities in Japan. Together, they developed the foundation of the prosperity of Kariya City.
So Ishida (and probably the entire Toyota) knew Taiichi Ohno’s father. Is this the reason for Taiichi’s success? I don’t think so. Many children have entered a business in Japan for various reasons. And Ishida was an excellent engineer finder. Probably, Ishida tested Taiichi for his capabilities. This “Standard work” episode could have been the test.
One important note is the background of this “Standard work” test. This challenge from Ishida came when Toyota’s spinning and weaving business significantly declined (1937 or 38), and they were converting to a growing automobile industry. Ohno was implementing “Standard work” in Brownfield. Some believe TPS is for a flat or growing market because the implementation happened during the significant growth period of Toyota Motor. But the implementation happened by the leaders who underwent a significant transformation from a declining industry.
What is true is that the Toyota Production System was developed under Ishida - Eiji Toyoda - Ohno - Suzumura structure. Understanding Ishida helps us understand what leadership was during TPS implementations. Many of Ohno’s episodes overlap with Ishida’s episodes. Ohno mentioned, “I received “Training” in the forms of many ‘Impossible requests’ from Ishida with Soroban (Japanese calculator) in hand.” A request that Ohno thought it’s “Impossible”? And how many people were described by Ohno as his trainer?
In the late ’30, Ishida was searching for a piston ring supplier. He found a young gentleman (at that point, this gentleman did not have a degree in engineering. Only an elementary school education.) who was working in an automobile repair shop. He became the supplier of Toyota. Unfortunately, the war and an earthquake happened, and he sold the business to Toyota. A few years later, the gentleman started his new business named after his last name, “Honda.”
Soichiro Honda started his motorcycle business by selling his piston ring business to Toyota. Was this a wrong decision by Ishida? Maybe. But, amazingly, Ishida allowed someone in the repair shop to supply it part. They say that the first shipment had 47 rejects out of 50. From such conditions, Mr. Honda became a critical supplier of Toyota. The business, Tokai Seiki, still operates.
When Honda ran Tokai Seiki, he was sick and tired of investors asking only for more dividends. So Honda contacted Ishida to buy some shares. Ishida described Honda as a man who keeps trying new things. Honda described Ishida as a very creative man, and Honda was frequently surprised by Ishida's ideas.
Also, upon starting the motorcycle business, Mr. Honda found his version of Ishida. Takeo Fujisawa. While Mr. Honda focused on technology, Mr. Fujisawa focused on running the business.
There are some stories that Mr. Honda visited Toyota often after entering the motorcycle business. There is a story in which Ohno visited the Honda factory for TPS implementation.
When Ishida was the president of Toyota in 1951, the founder of a supplier visited Toyota. After talking with Ishida and visiting the factory, he became a student of Ishida. His name is Kounosuke Matsushita, founder of Panasonic.
There is a story in which Mr. Matsushita was impressed with the continuous flow of the Toyota factory. At that time, Ohno has already started his TPS implementation. If so, Mr. Matsushita will be the first non-Toyota person to understand the value of TPS. And Mr. Matsushita was serious about his words. It became a standard for Panasonic’s senior management team to travel and learn from Ishida.
Mr. Matsushita told an episode (Many versions of this story exist).
One day Ishida came and asked for a 30% drop in the price. When Matsushita said that is impossible, Ishida said you must rethink the product's design. You must rethink how it is produced, and then you will be more profitable even with the dropped price. Mr. Matsushita tried what he was advised and accomplished more than Ishida expected.
Ishida passed away in 1979. His funnel was held as the Kariya city funnel. Mr. Matsushita made a speech saying that Ishida was his brother.
Many in Japan have considered Mr. Matsushita the “God of Management.” If so, Mr. Matsushita’s teacher, Mr. Ishida, is what? And What were his philosophies?
A man respected by Toyota, SONY, Honda, and Panasonic. Not bad? And what’s his philosophy??