By Kevin Meyer
Toyota just announced that it was suspending sales of eight of its most popular models while it investigates the accelerator pedal sticking problem. Good for them… finally.
There are supposedly two distinct problems, one where the floor mats create the sticking and some new manifestation of a similar issue. A few months ago Bill took Toyota to task for going about tackling the problem in a distinctly non-Toyota fashion.
Many of us in the lean community – all of us long admirers of Toyota
and ardent proponents of the business and manufacturing model they
spawned – have had to make excuses for Toyota and rationalize some of
their failings recently. The latest one, however, demonstrates just
how far they have slipped from the principles that propelled them to
Appropriate containment of the problem was not put in place to protect the customer when it was first noticed and appropriate problem solving was not implemented. Very disappointing, and Toyota’s reputation suffered.
But with that in the past, let’s take a look at today’s news. Not only are they suspending sales to contain the problem, they pulled one of the biggest andons ever by stopping all of the related production lines. What has not been reported widely is that in the Toyota supplier system this immediately cascades all the way across first, second, and third tier suppliers. Across the country production lines are stopping, inside and outside Toyota. Inventory will not build up.
I have to give Toyota kudos for the guts to do that. How much you want to bet that they will also keep the employees on the job to help with problem-solving and to perform additional training?
What do you think a traditional manufacturer would do? Would they even stop sales? Even if they did, would they stop the final assembly plants? And even if by some miraculous spark of brilliance they stopped a final assembly plant, would they cascade the stop throughout the supply chain? Highly doubtful. Most likely they’d keep production running then try to bring them back if and when a solution was found. And would they continue to pay the employees in order to provide additional training? Yeah, right.
For that matter how many of you, even the lean cognoscenti among us, would allow employees, or perhaps even leads and supervisors, to shut down an individual production line? Let alone encourage and celebrate it knowing that finding a problem is a good thing?
Time will tell if Toyota has really found its lost mojo, but this is a good sign.