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How Toyota uses kaizen for efficiency

After a plant reaches peak efficiency, the management reduces the number of workers slightly, so that the efficiency ratio falls. Then it introduces kaizen (continuous improvement) to return to the earlier level.

K.R. Balasubramanyam        Last Updated: July 20, 2012  | 20:22 IST

Toyota benchmarks itself on efficiency. It trains recruits in 'muscle memory', so that their hands work with unfailing precision. For instance, a new recruit graduates to the next level of training only after he masters the art of picking up exactly five pairs of nuts and bolts from a box.

The result: an Etios, Etios Liva or Corolla rolls off the assembly line in Toyota's Plant No. 2 in Bidadi, Karnataka, every 119 seconds, and an Innova or Fortuner in Plant No. 1 every 162 seconds. In 16.5 hours of operation in a day, the two plants produce a total of 744 vehicles.

"Both our Bidadi plants have reached an efficiency of 95 per cent, which is the highest level," says Hiroshi Nakagawa, Managing Director of Toyota Kirloskar Motor. This matches the efficiency level in Japan, he adds.

After a plant reaches peak efficiency, the management reduces the number of workers slightly, so that the efficiency ratio falls. Then it introduces kaizen (continuous improvement) to return to the earlier level.

Another example: its steel yield, or the useful output obtained from every kilo of input steel, for the Innova. The steel yield has improved from 59.48 per cent in February 2005 to 72.13 in May 2012 - a jump of 12.7 percentage points in seven years. An industry expert says that the Innova's steel yield ratio in India is the best in the world.

Toyota India ranks number one globally in the shipping quality audit, an annual exercise carried out at Toyota facilities worldwide. The audit focuses on the quality of vehicles before they are despatched to market.

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