The Toyota Way: Interview with Quality Engineer

In an interview with a former quality engineer from Toyota in Kentucky, U.S., we hear how Toyota’s management principles come to life everyday at the factory.

Some of the most engrained techniques he mentions include: kaizen meaning continuous improvement, sensei which is the Japanese word for mentor, 5s and A3 reporting.

Toyota Production System (TPS)

Toyota, a world leader in total quality management, is renowned for its production system which encompasses lean manufacturing and a ‘Customer First’ policy. Toyota began implementing quality management tools as early as the 1930’s, far before its competitors. With the work of Edward Deming and commitment to continuous improvement, Toyota is today a reference point for companies worldwide.

Interview Summary

The engineer states that, at Toyota, «it’s all about eliminating waste.» That’s where the term lean comes in.

When asked how the principle of Respect for People is put into practice, he answers that «at Toyota, everyone is empowered. You were always treated well.» He uses the example of a manager who would hold the door open for every worker for the same amount of time, regardless of position, background or field.

When asked about the idea of continuous improvement, he answers that «it was just how they did the work. It was part of the culture.»

When asked about sensei, he replies that everyone had a coordinator or a mentor. As the company grew, manager levels would continue to have the same sensei for years.

Lastly, in terms of technology, he says that technology is actually secondary. It’s a tool that is needed to support the people rather than always be the latest thing. They choose to stick to the technology that is proven to work, in some cases not the latest, because they believe in quality rather than getting everything as new as possible.

Related Posts: 
Think Like Toyota: A3, PDCA & Problem-Solving
Toyota’s Quality Tool: 5S