PRINCETON, Ind. - Toyota Motor Corp. will train all employees - not just production workers - at its Indiana truck plant in its famous quality and efficiency program.
According to the operation's chief executive, every person at the 4,700-employee subsidiary now must be trained in the Toyota Production System, the company's widely copied lean-manufacturing rule book.
The policy means every accountant, secretary, engineer, receptionist, office worker and temporary employee is expected to practice Toyota's work rules about identifying and eliminating wasteful activities, says Seizo Okamoto, president of Toyota Motor Manufacturing Indiana Inc.
Nonproduction staffers are receiving the same efficiency training as Toyota's manufacturing employees, Okamoto says. The system focuses on continual improvement, reduction of work steps, elimination of wasteful practices and collaboration on solving problems.
The Princeton, Ind., plant is the first Toyota plant in the world to expand Toyota Production System training beyond production team members. Others will follow.
Okamoto decided the additional training was necessary to make nonproduction employees - such as the administrative staff - more supportive of ideas and efforts coming from the shop floor.
"At Toyota, we believe that we create real value through production," Okamoto says. "The most important person is the production team member.
"But we have decided that other functions have to support production - I mean in administration, accounting, engineering. Without fully understanding TPS, they can't support effective production; they just create conflict."
The Princeton plant builds the Sienna minivan, Tundra pickup and Sequoia SUV.
Okamoto's staff also is directing Toyota's $800 million plant launch in San Antonio. The plant will build additional Tundras.
Toyota's production system requires assembly workers to follow specific rules to improve the product as they work. One key practice calls for standardized work steps to be followed without deviation. Another asks workers to "surface problems" as quickly as possible.
"Most people hesitate to surface a problem about themselves," Okamoto acknowledges. "It goes against human nature to talk about what's going badly. But it is very important to TPS, so we need to have everyone work on it together."