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Affluent Christian Investor | October 21, 2017

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Respect for God and Gratitude: How Toyota Rose On More Than Just Hard Work

Photo by Getty Images

Photo by Getty Images

The Toyota Motor Corporation evolved from a strong belief in the free-market and an attitude parallel with the Puritan work-ethic.  Takahiro Fujimoto, who has researched and written extensively about Toyota and their business model, the Toyota Production System, succinctly and correctly stated that Toyota was “Neither a result of [a] deliberately planned business strategy nor random chance.”[1]  Fujimoto explains that “Toyota’s just-in-time method and the Ford system of the early days (Henry Ford’s era of Highland Park experiments in the 1910s) had much in common.”[2]  Monden also concludes that Toyota “follows the Taylor system (scientific management)[3] and the Ford system (mass-assembly line).”[4]  Toyota’s renowned Production Manager and engineer, Taiichi Ohno, who studied extensively Ford’s methods and read Ford’s writings, commented that “the real intentions of Henry Ford was not understood accurately”[5] by other automotive manufacturers, and that even “Ford’s successors misinterpreted the work flow system,”[6] which was developed and deployed at the Highland Park Plant, home of the Model T.  Eiji Toyoda, Kiichiro’s younger cousin and future President and Chairman of Toyota, wrote in his biography that “Kiichiro’s idea was to switch over entirely to a flow-type production system,”[7] but it would ultimately be achieved under the leadership of Eiji and Ohno.

From Toyota’s own history, they note that “The entire plant was laid out according to the manufacturing flow from the bringing in of raw materials to the dispatch of the completed automobiles.”[8]  This was the Highland Park Plant being laid over the Toyota plant.  The baton was handed off.  “In this sense, Ford was undeniably Toyota’s mentor.”[9]

The patterns of behavior of Sakichi, Kiichiro, and Taiichi Ohno established the conduct parallel to the Puritan work-ethic – hands-on, pull up your own boot-straps, get your hands dirty and solve your own problems with the means you have at hand.  This corporate personality incubated a work environment unknowingly preparing for when TWI come into the Toyota Motor Company in the early 1950s through their training department as a result of its deployment by the Americans during the Occupation of Japan.  TWI simply made sense to Ohno.  It was a hands-on, rational, scientific method-based methodology of techniques with the mantra of Learn By Doing.  It could not have fit Ohno’s and Toyota’s personality better, and, incidentally, had better timing, as Ohno had been struggling quite hardily in trying to implement the Ford’ flow methods.  “[Ohno],” writes Masaaki Sato, in his book, The Toyota Leaders, “was having trouble coming up with good ideas”[10] transforming the assembly line according to true flow production.  So Ohno latched on to TWI and ran with it.  Not only training his supervisors but taking the training himself.  Monden writes:

“Once the standard operations were set up by the supervisor (foreman), he must be able to perform these operations perfectly, and then instruct his workers to do so.  The supervisor should not only teach the operations, but also explain the reasons the standard must be kept (i.e., the goals of standard operations).  This provides the workers with the incentive to take responsibility for product quality.”[11]

This is the very result of TWI being integrated into the daily operation.  This became the foundation which Toyota established to improve and maintain their flow production replicated from early Ford, and achieve their renowned productivity, quality, and improvement culture.[12]  Eiji Toyoda describes it as answering “how were we to put [Kiichiro’s idea of flow production] into practice?”  He answers, stating “The first thing that had to be done was give thorough training in the new methods to the workers, or at least the foremen and shop supervisors.  We were bringing them a radically new system.  To get them to accept it, we had to rid them entirely of their notions of the old way of doing things.”[13]

Ohno had been given the directive to improve productivity to a level equivalent to the Americans.  This was an incredibly daunting objective since Toyota was 9 times less productive.  “Catch up with the United States in productivity within three years,”[14] announced Kiichiro in the Fall of 1945.  Toyota was also cash stripped, making it all the more difficult task for Ohno to achieve any productivity improvements.  Learn by Doing from pulling up your own boot-straps was all he had to use.  Ohno would also visit American factories, including Ford,[15] as did Eiji Toyoda, including visiting Ford’s Highland Park Plant.[16]

In fact one of the “Five Main Principles of Toyoda” that was set for the organization in 1935 – on the fifth anniversary of Sakichi Toyoda’s death – as a testament to Sakichi was “ always have respect for God, and remember to be grateful at all times.”[17]  Although Kiichiro was influenced and practiced meditation for Zen Buddhism, he also studied at his university foundations of Christianity which was part of the curriculum.  This is not to say Kiichiro was a Christian, but his views on life were influenced by this education, although his character “was perhaps due to the…Zen Buddhist culture, as well as to the rationalist, scientific mindset that was characteristic of him as an engineer.”[18]  Perhaps a simple description of Kiichiro was a hands-on pragmatist.  God will use His pagan children to fulfill His will in His creation as much as He does with His believing children.

These American principles, practices, values, and Faith of Christendom came into a struggling young manufacturing company coming out of a war-torn country.  But wisely, and perhaps due to some desperation, this company embraced them, used them, grew with them, and took them as their own.  To this day Toyota took pieces of Christendom into their DNA and created one of the most successful, profitable, and respected manufacturers on the planet.  So, yes, as Americans, we should take a bow.  One of our underlings took our advice about business and behavior and believed abundance can come from it.  They achieved exactly what we said could be achieved.  Let us rejoice in our sufferings.

[1] Takahiro Fujimoto, 1999, The Evolution of a Manufacturing System at Toyota, (New York, NY: Oxford University Press), p. 5.

[2] Takahiro Fujimoto, 1999, The Evolution of a Manufacturing System at Toyota, (New York, NY: Oxford University Press), p. 59.  Also see Takahiro Fujimoto, 2007 (Japanese edition originally published in 2003, Noryoku Kochiku Kyoso: Nihon no Jidosha Sangyo wa Naze Tsuyoi no ka), Competing to be Really, Really Good: The behind-the-scenes drama of capability-building competition in the automobile industry (Tokyo, Japan: International House of Japan), pp. 68-69 and p. 92.

[3] See Frederick Winslow Taylor, 1998 (originally published in 1911), The Principles of Scientific Management (Norcross, GA: Engineering & Management Press).

[4] Yasuhiro Monden, 1993, Toyota Production System: An Integrated Approach to Just-In-Time, 2nd Ed. (Norcross, GA: Industrial Engineering and Management Press), p. 1.

[5] Takahiro Fujimoto, 1999, The Evolution of a Manufacturing System at Toyota, (New York, NY: Oxford University Press), p. 60.

[6] Taiichi Ohno, 1988, (Japanese edition originally published in 1978, Toyota seisan hoshiki), Toyota Production System: Beyond Large-Scale Production, (Portland, OR: Productivity Press), p. 100.

[7] Eiji Toyoda, 1987, Toyota, Fifty Years in Motion: An autobiography by the chairman, Eiji Toyoda, (Tokyo, Japan; Kodansha International/USA Ltd.), p. 57, also see pp. 58-59.

[8] Toyota Motor Corporation, 1988, Toyota: A History of the First 50 Years, (Toyota City, Japan: Toyota Motor Corporation), p. 70.

[9] Masaaki Sato, 2008, The Toyota Leaders: An Executive Guide, (New York, NY: Vertical, Inc.), p. 55.

[10] Masaaki Sato, 2008, The Toyota Leaders: An Executive Guide, (New York, NY: Vertical, Inc.), p. 67.

[11] Yasuhiro Monden, 1993, Toyota Production System: An Integrated Approach to Just-In-Time, 2nd Ed. (Norcross, GA: Industrial Engineering and Management Press), p. 158.

[12] Takahiro Fujimoto, 2007 (Japanese edition originally published in 2003, Noryoku Kochiku Kyoso: Nihon no Jidosha Sangyo wa Naze Tsuyoi no ka), Competing to be Really, Really Good: The behind-the-scenes drama of capability-building competition in the automobile industry (Tokyo, Japan: International House of Japan), p. 92.

[13] Eiji Toyoda, 1987, Toyota, Fifty Years in Motion: An autobiography by the chairman, Eiji Toyoda, (Tokyo, Japan; Kodansha International/USA Ltd.), p. 58.

[14] Takahiro Fujimoto, 2007 (Japanese edition originally published in 2003, Noryoku Kochiku Kyoso: Nihon no Jidosha Sangyo wa Naze Tsuyoi no ka), Competing to be Really, Really Good: The behind-the-scenes drama of capability-building competition in the automobile industry (Tokyo, Japan: International House of Japan), p. 70.

[15] Takahiro Fujimoto, 2007 (Japanese edition originally published in 2003, Noryoku Kochiku Kyoso: Nihon no Jidosha Sangyo wa Naze Tsuyoi no ka), Competing to be Really, Really Good: The behind-the-scenes drama of capability-building competition in the automobile industry (Tokyo, Japan: International House of Japan), p. 71.

[16] Eiji Toyoda, 1987, Toyota, Fifty Years in Motion: An autobiography by the chairman, Eiji Toyoda, (Tokyo, Japan; Kodansha International/USA Ltd.), pp. 106-108.

[17] Kazuo Wada and Tsunehiko Yui, 2002, Courage and Change: The Life of Kiichiro Toyoda, Toyota Motor Corporation, Toyota City, Japan, p. 8.

[18] Kazuo Wada and Tsunehiko Yui, 2002, Courage and Change: The Life of Kiichiro Toyoda, Toyota Motor Corporation, Toyota City, Japan, pp. 46-47.

Jim Huntzinger began his career as a manufacturing engineer with Aisin Seiki (a Toyota Group company and manufacturer of automotive components) when they transplanted to North America to support Toyota. Over his career he has also researched at length the evolution of manufacturing in the United States with an emphasis on lean’s influence and development. In addition to his research on TWI, he has extensively researched the history of Ford’s Highland Park plant and its direct tie to Toyota’s business model and methods of operation.

Huntzinger is the President and Founder of Lean Frontiers and a graduate from Purdue University with a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering Technology and received a M.S. in Engineering Management from the Milwaukee School of Engineering. He authored the book, Lean Cost Management: Accounting for Lean by Establishing Flow, was a contributing author to Lean Accounting: Best Practices for Sustainable Integration.

 

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