Skip to main content

What did you learn in Japan?’ you may ask me, following my week there with the Lean Global Network (LGN) tenth anniversary ‘return-to-the-source (Toyota)’ trip in September.

“How much time have you got? I might reply. There was a lot! Here are just some snippets.

  1. TNGA – Toyota New Global Architecture – was a topic for our edification. The picture illustrates its application to ‘shift lever’ design (yes, those are some of our LGN colleagues – 24 countries in all now) at the Tokai Rika Otawa Plant. We concluded that it is ‘back to basics’ in Design for Manufacture. But it is getting a big push: customer value, quality and efficiency are claimed benefits.

  1. “What about the Toyota Production System (TPS) is uniquely ‘Toyota’, or uniquely ‘Japanese’, or just stems from universal knowledge?” John Shook put this question to us, before and during the trip. At the end, each of us had to put a Post-it note in a triangle: it looked as below; so not hugely decisive. What do you think?

  1. The most remarkable Toyota person we met was Nomura-san, 74 years old and still active at the Takahama Plant of the Toyota Materials Handling Group. That’s him with Jim Womack who presented him with one of his books.

He spent a spell with Toyota in Australia and South Africa nearly 20 years ago, and declared, “South Africa and Australia were the worst, and I learnt how to train in a practical way.” Make of that what you will!

In his ten years at the Takahama Plant, quality defects have fallen dramatically – 88% in his first three years. His battle cry is “Act within one hour of defect!”  For his 8 steps to zero defects, plus a clip from his resume, see right at the end of this newsletter.

  1. A very experienced LGN colleague, ex-Toyota and fluent in Japanese, asked Nomura-san how, ten years ago when he arrived there, it could be that the Takahama Plant could know TPS and yet not do it? He reacted with a faint smile and quietly said, as if to himself, “There is a contradiction in the question.” (Can you guess what he might have meant?) As if not to in any way diminish the questioner, he added, “They were working on the wrong problem.” This interaction was probably the one that had the biggest impact on me personally.
  1. We had many amazing and convivial meals; food was ‘interesting’:


Nomura-san’s 8 steps to zero defects (much abbreviated):

  1. Confirm the actual defect by actual person.
  2. Check other processes… do process check.
  3. Find cause.
  4. Make countermeasure.
  5. Explain to all what was found as problem and the countermeasure.
  6. Standardisation. (“This is most important,” he emphasised.)
  7. Teaching all the people, regarding changes as a result of standardisation.
  8. Watch over Daily Management for zero defects, or not.

Clip from Nomura-san’s resume (for ‘carrier’ read ‘career’):

“Pulled it together,” nogal!

What are you up to? What questions or comments do you have for me? Please let me know.

Keep leaning, learning and having fun,