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Vision of Factory

When Toyota Motor opened its first factory at Koromo in 1938, Kiichiro Toyoda created a vision for the factory.

Yes, the vision for the factory

Factory should have a vision. Factory isn’t just numbers, space, and location. It should have a vision that the workers use as their guiding principles.

The name of Kiichiro’s vision is called Just In Time, which gave a massive advantage to future generations.

In 1935, Toyota started the construction of the first dedicated automobile factory in Koromo (currently known as Toyota City). When this project started, Kiichiro Toyoda developed a vision for this factory, which consisted of four parts.

The first paragraph concerns general numbers, such as area and volume (starting at 2000/month, increase to 10000. Second line will be built to reach 20000.)

The second paragraph is about the types of machinery. Kiichiro is stating that they should purchase customizable dedicated machines so that machines are adjustable to design changes. And he concludes that they should buy such machines even if the prices are 10-20% higher.

This paragraph is powerful. First, Kiichiro has “design improvement” in mind. He says machines should be ready for changes, not necessarily becoming a burden. Second, he says a slightly higher price is acceptable to gain such capability. How often have we seen a machine picked because it is the cheapest and became the most costly mistake because it is so inflexible? Of course, what Kiichiro had in mind was “Kairyo,” not “Kaizen.” But he had this mentality of continuous improvement.

The third paragraph is about standardization. Kiichiro states that all processes must be standardized. However, since the volume is low compared to the USA, each work can’t be segmented. Each process needs to be simplified and requires an “operations work chart” by components.

This is another powerful statement. The first is because of the need for standardization. Not only does this talk about the need for standardization, but by trying to avoid segmentations, it opens the door to “large island” and “balancing.” What is also interesting is that the “operations work chart by components” opens the possibility of creating a “continuous flow” by components.

The fourth paragraph is about internal transportation. They want to invest in a conveyor system but say it is too expensive to implement from day one. So, keep the overhead space.

This statement keeps material flow in mind. They have ideas but are not aggressive in investing from day one. Gradual investment according to growth is the key.

Interestingly, when this plant opened in 1938, Kiichiro remarked in his speech that these were necessary to accomplish the “Just In Time” production.

By the way, Taiichi Ohno was working at Toyota Boshoku when this opening happened and was challenged about “Standard Work” from Ishida.

What is interesting about this story is that the factory had a vision—a clear vision to accomplish a bigger vision of the business.

How many factories have a vision? And why not have one?

Factory is not just numbers, such as space, size, capital, etc. It is not an inorganic substance. Actually, it becomes lethargy if we design it that way. What provides the energy is the vision made by the leader.

The vision doesn’t need to be perfect. The “Just In Time” Kiichiro defined will be improved significantly by Taiichi Ohno several years later. Yet, that direction (Houshin) allowed the executor Ohno to elevate the system to a higher level.

Also, the vision doesn’t have to be about “Just In Time.” It could be about people. It could be about community. It could be about safety. It could be about quality. It could be about the supply chain. It could be about environmental issues. Whatever the topic, whatever the leader thinks the need to innovate should be part of a factory's vision. And the vision doesn’t need to be perfect. It just needs to improve as we actually try things.

So, what is your factory’s vision? Or your store’s vision? Or your logistic center’s vision?

Reference; “30 years history of Toyota” Toyota Motor Manufacturing Corporate History Editorial Board, 1967

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