I’ve had hundreds of conversations over the past few years with people who tell me they’ve owned 6 or 7 Toyotas and that the very first one they bought is still in the family on the road, has 250K miles on it with Aunt Lucy’s nephew driving it and, well…this always leads to the question of How Can This Be?
Here is a brief background about The Toyota Production Process that offers explanation for this phenomenon. First of all Toyota does not build vehicles using a mass-production model like American domestics and others do. Toyota reasons that mass production practice of passing errors down the line in order to keep the line running only causes errors and defects to multiply. Mass production workers are oriented to believe that actions they could take to stop the line would be cause for discipline and therefore allow problems that they observe to continue on down the line. The result of this is football stadium size lots full of vehicles with problems and rework defects.
The Toyota Production Process operates on a foundation of some funny looking words like Jidoka, Andon, Genchi Genbutsu, and a few others. Jidoka is a term meaning automation with a human touch or the ability to stop production lines anytime at the sight of a problem. Andon refers to realtime visual and physical controls about current production state of affairs, Any Toyota worker can stop the production line any time at the sign of trouble by pulling an “ANDON CORD”. Genchi Genbutsu is to “Go and See” and is the belief that practical experience is more valuable than theoretical knowledge; “One must see the problem to know the problem”.
The terms above provide 4 foundation principles that Toyota Vehicle Production is built upon:
- Detect abnormalities
- Stop production
- Fix or correct the immediate condition
- Go and See, investigate, define and eliminate the root cause through corrective measure
Toyota factories also feature the famous “10 Stall Garage” at the End of the Line Defect Check Point. As long as less than 5 stalls are filled with defect vehicles at the same time defined by Toyota’s rigid standards, production lines continue. Anytime defect vehicles fill 5 or more of those 10 stalls, the entire production line stops and all managers “Go and See” to investigate the problem first hand…thus, Genchi Genbutsu applied.
Whether driving a 2009 Avalon Limited or a 22 year old Corolla FX, all Toyotas are built the same way under the principles and funny words outlined above. In addition a buyer can now purchase a new Toyota with an exclusive Life Time Warranty with unlimited miles and unlimited time.