Takashi Hata was a young human resources manager when he and about 1,000 Japanese employees moved to Georgetown for the plant's 1988 startup. Hata spent many hours with his U.S. counterparts. He trained them in Toyota's ways. They explained American rules and practices to him.
That instruction led him to a startling conclusion: Toyota's training methods, based on Ohno's, didn't work.
Never mind that Americans would never stand for the sort of verbal abuse Ohno used. The key issues were bigger than that.
Americans' cultural diversity and different learning styles vexed Toyota's trainers. Toyota's processes, company values and perspectives still were handed down from person to person in the same master-disciple style Ohno used.
Hata couldn't train just a small corps of manufacturing experts. He needed to train a full plant's worth of workers — all at once, and in a short time.
Hata decided Toyota needed to standardize its training process. He convinced his boss, Fujio Cho, that the plant's training programs had to be formalized. For example, he asked for — hold onto your hat — written manuals.
As a result, the programs would ensure an efficient instruction process and standardized work methods. Employees also would be inculcated with Toyota's values.
As the automaker's overseas expansion shifted into high gear in the 1990s, Hata became even more convinced that Toyota's methods were inadequate. "Person-to-person training became inefficient, almost impossible," Hata says.
From 2000 to 2005, for example, Toyota's worldwide employment jumped 25.5 percent, from 210,709 to 264,410. It also hired a huge number of temporary or part-time workers as well, both at home and abroad.
Cho, an Ohno disciple who later became Toyota's president, now is a full convert to the Georgetown approach to training.
Hata and others convinced him that "having standards is very important when doing business in America," Cho says. "You need a standard or check sheet, so you get uniform results regardless of who's doing it. In the past, Toyota was sort of loose in this."
Today, a Global Production Center in Japan teaches standard procedures to workers from all continents. Branches in the United States and Thailand teach more workers.