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company visits

Visit Toyota Tsutsumi plant

Posted by smeding on 15 November, 2006

Details about Toyota, see profile.Toyota
Photo’s of visit; see www.smeding.org/gallery2 (unfortunately no process and machine photo’s were allowed.)

Focus of visit was Toyota Production System (TPS)

Toyota is not an ‘open company’. The factory tour was only 50 minutes where “daily visitors” could already visit the welding shop, paint shop and assembly lines to the extend of 2,5 hours.
We were only allowed to see the assembly line in a very rapid time, no photo taking and no talking with operators and team leaders. Also the Q&A session after the visit was disappointing, the production manager and others who attended were very reserved in there answers. The main reason was that some of our group members were related directly our indirectly with the car industry in Europe.

The visit to the Toyota Customer Centre and the presentation about TPS in the afternoon compensated a lot. The info centre, new developments, explanations of principles, and a very good presentation and very open Q&A session with Mr. Kiuma, the President of the Toyota Support Centres. Mr. Kiuma lead in the past for several years the TSC in Brussels.
The basics of the Toyota success and the pillars of the system are shown in a more detailed presentation I made.

What we have seen in the assembly factory was in line with the principles they presented us;

  • JIT is practised extensively by the use of KanBan, in the whole supply chain, from 1st tier supplier, via welding shop, painting and component and part sets manufacturing, the material flow is controlled by KanBan. The only exceptions are the moulding and casting parts which are produced in batches.
  •  Toyota is not outsourcing globally.
    Domestic they have appr. 20 manufacturing plants, 8 of them are assembly plants, the rest are component production and assembly plants, delivering to the assembly plants.
    They benchmark there own plants regularly with global suppliers, if there is a gap they startup Kaizen activities to fill the gap.
  • Jidoka, build in quality control is also implemented extensively, if a problem occurs the andon (visualizing Andonboardwhere problem is) activates, if the problem is not solved within the takttime the process stops.
  • with Kaizen-Circles they improve continuously the processes and solve problems back to the root, everything of the activity is visualized on only a few A4 or A3 papers. (In whole Toyota organization they had in 2005 more then 600.000 kaizen proposals, of which more then 60% were implemented. Often by the operators and team leaders themselves, or with help of the support centre.
  • New product developments are taking approximately half of the time as in Europe. Main reasons are extensive knowledge management (everything is evaluated and registered very detailed) and they ‘copy and make better’, 80% of a new car consists of existing parts!
  • The operating income of Toyota is quiet stable for years around 9%, this is not extraordinary, but they realize this also in ‘bad’ times, by reacting quickly on changing situations. The inventory turnover of the Tsutsumi plant is with appr. 200 extremely high, also the 1st tier suppliers, who are mainly owned by Toyota, have a high turnover, the stocks are moved upstream to the 2nd tier and further suppliers.

I made a more detailed report about the impressions and learnings during all the visits, and I made a powerpoint presentation explaining the Toyota Production System (TPS). Both are available on request. Pillars


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Visit Yamauchi

Posted by smeding on 10 November, 2006



Details about Yamauchi, see profile.

Photo’s of visit; see www.smeding.org/gallery2 (unfortunately no process and machine photo’s were allowed.)

Focus of visit was TPM and visualization

Good presentation about history and activities of TPM, and extensive tour trough the factories

Summarized I can say that Yamauchi uses high level TPM to increase there productivity, with cost matrixes and with vision about new developments, they divine every time new targets for Q-circles for improvement projects, last but not least with visualization they make the goals and problems clear and show the results.

The presentation was very extensive and explained the steps Yamauchi followed from implementation of TPM in 1991 until today. Every 3 – 4 years they stated new/adjusted fundamental policies and goals and realized these with TPM and Kaizen (continuous improvement).

During the years, by means of TPM and Kaizen, they improved productivity and cost down impressively.

For instance breakdown of the machines (more then 50) reduced from 230h. in 1991 to 2h. in 2006 per month. Output and speed of machines, tool changes, etc. was improved by own Kaizen activities.

Several of the sections (particular group machines for range of similar products), are now running in evening and/or night shift totally unmanned.

Direct workers saved by this are replaced in other sections and/or in production engineering.

There are not many temporary workers, so in times of no growth, this will give manning problems, especially because they are strongly committed to not firing people.

They try to solve this by looking/developing new markets, to create in this way still growth.

An example of this is there Q-circle project “YQR”, Yamauchi quick Response, with the target for R&D to bring new developments rapidly to the market. The goal is 24 hours!, when they started in 1999 they had a response time of 30 days, in 2005 they achieved 2 days.

The ratio of new sales products is >50% per year!

In the meeting room, in the presentation, in hallways, at the entrance and on a lot of places in the factory you find publication boards with information about former and actual activities.

Per activity very detailed information about old and new situation, costs and savings, collected efficiently on a few A4’s or A3’s.

Factory tour


After the presentations we visited the factory; the first building was fully loading with molding machines.
They produce here very small plastic cogwheels for video, film and tape equipment, worldwide they have a market share of >80%.

The second building was fully loaded with rubber compound machines and product presses and other process machine.

They produce here rubber drive belts for video and cassettes and due to the decreasing market for this products they introduced some years ago new products,

being guide rollers for printers, copiers, etc.



A good example of the result of different Q-circle projects was the reduction of waste of raw material during production.

At the beginning the waste was about 40%, nowadays the waste is 5%.

The machines are not super fast, some of them are pretty old (25 years), but by retrofitting they are on a quality level of today’s machines.

This retrofitting is based on knowledge management and Kaizen, because detailed data collection and evaluation and continuous improvements gave them the knowledge how to build the most effective machine. With consistent and very high level TPM these machines have a very low breakdown rate, with automation the machines were running in the evening shift unmanned.

The quality was secured with a high degree of Jidoka. This means that the quality control is build in the process.

If a product or the machine (tool) is not ok, then the process stops.


Finally we visited there own company school. They developed very focused and very detailed training programs for operators, teamleaders and maintenance engineers.

A lot of practice with toolings, machines and ‘transparent’ scale models of machines.

Also a lot of theory and practice of visualization was studied.

Engineers were teached the sense and use of FMEA technics.


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Posted by smeding on 10 November, 2006

After visiting Toyota, Ricoh and Yamauchi plant, we visited today the Komatsu plant.
All four of the factories are real WCM fatories.
I added the photos to the photo album, see link.
A summary of the visits will follow.

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Profile Toyota

Posted by smeding on 30 October, 2006


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Profile Komatsu

Posted by smeding on 29 October, 2006


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Visit Honda

Posted by smeding on 29 October, 2006

Within the European Honda network, Honda Europe NV takes care of;

  • Logistics of cars, motorbicycles, power equipment products and accessories;
  • Parts service for all products;
  • Sales and service of industrial engines;
  • developing and maintaining ICT.

The European network consists of 6 honda Logistics Centres (HLC) coordinated from Gent.
The filosophy of Honda is based on ‘glocalization’, meaning based on a global approach maximizing the local cultural integration.

See company brochure for an overview of the activities and filosophy. Honda Europe NV Brochure
Important driver for contineous improvement are the so called ‘Honda Circles’.
A Honda circle can be initiated by the employees themselves and are not limited to strict manufacturing issues.
In this way a culture of respect and Kaizen thinking is created, with amazing results.
The best Honda Circles are meeting/competing eachother on global Honda events.

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