Wednesday, April 22, 2009

More Toyota Plant:

Stop here if you are already bored but someone might find this interesting. The Andon board for all the assembly lines has numbers indicating the Plan for right now, the actual state, The plan for the shift and the % production achieved to target. I think this is right anyway.

Little lights hang over each car assembly area station that are green, orange and red. You can guess what these mean and I explained the orange and red earlier (ha, I knew you weren't paying attention). I was surprised that they didn't stop the line every time they found an issue. I had some romantic notions that were dispelled during the tour. It was hard to figure out how Kaizen (continual improvement) really worked in practice as we saw orange and red lights go off but it wasn't some dramatic swarming event. They seemed to fix stuff as it all kept moving while we were there. Production was at 450 cars per day. It has been lowered due to the economy. Apparently they use some of the slack time to make improvements. We did hear that it was up to the workers to make improvements on their own time which was a little at odds with the other statement. We suspected that due to a 2007 ruling that Toyota had to pay for overtime that this might be the reason it was voluntary and out of hours. We hope to find out more about this on Friday when we talk to an ex chief-engineer from Toyota. We are told there are up to 20,000 Kaizen improvements per year by the guide. The shifts are 7.5 hours.

They have a little play area to try your hand at different skills. It's fun. They also have some little plagues around with workers medals displayed for various honours.

We see Poke Yoke (mistake proofing) in action. The robots have validation tests built in and will also set off the alarms automatically if there are any aberrations.

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