No Fools Here
In the early 1990's Toyota was searching U.S. automotive parts producers to buy parts for their growing transplant production plants. There was extensive news and press releases by Toyota complaining that there were few suppliers in the U.S. who could satisfy their quality requirements. One Toyota executive was quoted as saying, "we want to spend $19 billion on U.S. made parts, but we cannot find anyone good enough to do the work for us." He said they were already buying seat covers and cigarette lighters from the Americans, but the critical drive train parts still had to be imported from Japan. But they kept searching.
In late 1992 John Musat of Braun Engineering was visited by a Toyota Search Team which consisted of just one individual. He was from Japan but spoke English very well. Upon arrival, he was not interested in coffee and donuts. He wanted to take a tour of the shop. So, off they went. John said, he learned more in four hours from that individual than he learned from a whole week's worth of visitors from Ford or TRW.
The Toyota representative stopped off at the coating line. He noticed the temperature gauge on the tanks that held the zinc-phosphate, water, and other chemicals. The temperature gauge was at 117 degrees Fahrenheit. He then noticed the SPC charts. The latest plot was five minutes earlier and was marked at 110 degrees. He asked the operator if the temperature had increased seven degrees in the past five minutes. The operator was very honest, which is the case with most production workers in Detroit. The operator went on to explain that he seldom recorded the actual temperature on the SPC charts. He said it was too hard to get the temperature within specs and if he recorded the actual temperature, Ford, Chrysler, or GM would shut them down if they were not at 1.33 Cpk.
The Japanese visitor shook the operators hand, turned to John and shook his hand, and left the building. Two years later, Toyota constructed a plant in the U.S. that produces parts very similar to that of Braun Engineering.
John was very upset by this and improved the circulation of the fluids to keep the temperature at the proper levels. John had only been in charge a few months before this visit.
In early 1993 John contracted me to help him. He said no one in Detroit is willing to read, understand, and apply the "green book." The green book was Shingo's Toyota Production System. In late 1994 we arranged for Honda to visit.
A few years later we won the Shingo Prize and successfully penetrated Honda's Marysville plant for drive train components. We were proud of that achievement. At that time we believe we were the only U.S. based supplier, who was "good enough" to provide drive train components to a Japanese transplant. It was interesting to see how Braun struggled to conform to Honda's requirements which were heads and shoulders above that of the Big 3 U.S. automakers.
There is absolutely no conflict between being the lowest cost, highest quality producer.
©1995/2006 James Vick, Inc.
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