Our modern world hasn't experienced anything like the challenges we are facing now. Like a tough boxer, the global pandemic is dealing heavy hits to our way of life and the ways we make a living.
There are many ways to get through a tough opponent and troubled times. Some try to continue as before, hoping to power through. Some go back to the drawing board and start over. Some go and search for new philosophies or new forms of motivation. Each person, each community, each company has a different way of dealing with adversity.
What Toyota Motor Philippines did, however, was different. They wanted to do something about the situation, and so they took a step back to regroup, and they realized that that the answer was there the whole time: it's about who they are.
It's about the Toyota Production System (TPS) from Toyota's DNA: monozukuri. The word may sound complex, but it's really very simple Japanese: mono means thing while zukuri is making. It's a traditional Japanese craftsman philosophy to produce things that are beneficial to society, all while being mindful to reduce waste and lessen the impact on the environment. This is actually one of the reasons why Toyota is easily one of the most studied and storied automotive companies worldwide.
When vehicle manufacturing in the Philippines came to a halt when the government declared an enhanced community quarantine, Toyota didn't want their factory to remain muted for months to ride out the situation. They knew they had to do something, so they turned to their manufacturing capabilities, philosophies, and dedication to help. They applied monozukuri.
Recognizing the widespread need for face masks for the health of their stakeholders -Team Members, front liners, and the wider community as a whole- Toyota Motor Philippines sprung into action to produce masks. The situation may be new, but with TPS this was not impossible to overcome.
Toyota Team Members started an organized face mask production line that made full use of their limited resources given the quarantine restrictions. The effort was led by TMP's Manufacturing Division together with other departments within TMP. After a series of discussions to plan, conceptualize and train Team Members, TMP's many divisions pooled their talent and converted their rest areas at the factory to set up the first face mask production line in early May.
By the first week of June, Toyota's team had set up another 7 lines, using the lessons learned from the first to simplify the manufacturing process along the way and reduce wasted materials. The result was 8 leaner, faster, and more efficient production lines. Kaizen is what Toyota calls it; the process of continuous improvement. In such a short amount of time, Toyota Motor Philippines was producing 1,120 face masks per day.
The key to this success is the dedication seen from Toyota's Team Members. It wasn't easy. All had to work with the difficulties of having to use personal protective equipment (PPEs) and maintain a minimum 1.5-meter distance from each other. Some Team Members even stayed at the company's dorm facility in Santa Rosa because the lockdown period made the commute far more difficult. This sacrifice to go above and beyond is what can be seen on the factory floor everyday Toyota Motor Philippines Team Members apply the same dedication to produce the Vios and Innova at their Santa Rosa, Laguna plant.
Toyota achieved its goal and was supplying the Toyota network with face masks from May to June. By doing so, Toyota Motor Philippines became self-sufficient when it comes to face masks and relieved the mask shortage in the commercial market during the strict quarantine period.
They didn't stop there though. From July to August, Toyota Motor Philippines expanded the distribution of their in-house face masks to the wider community. As a responsible corporate citizen, TMP gave their masks for free to local communities that needed them and government agencies on the frontline of the health pandemic. All in all, Toyota Team Members proudly made and gave away more than 43,000 masks.
It may be difficult to understand how the Team Members over at Toyota Motor Philippines successfully went from using heavy equipment to weld body panels for automobiles to using sewing machines to put together face masks.
In reality, Toyota just went full circle.
In the early years of Toyota, the family business wasn't about automobiles. Sakichi Toyoda, the son of a carpenter, was in the business of making better looms for Japan's textile industry, and he wanted to innovate.
Sakichi saw the working conditions at textile plants; these were dusty and hazardous environments. Early industries were known for not prioritizing the health of their team members but Sakichi's inventor mindset wanted to change that, and so he came up with a loom that made conditions better for those that used them.
“When we say 'invention', it may sound like something very advanced, but it was actually the result of Sakichi simply exploring a desire to do something for his team members at the manufacturing frontlines who were suffering damage in their lungs,” said Akio Toyoda, the great-grandson of Sakichi.
And so he invented and built the Type G automatic loom; a machine that is all about automating the process but with a human touch. Toyota calls the process jidoka.
“Thus, seeing the employees suffering and hoping to keep the machines from stopping due to abnormalities, a job that required the employees to always stay close to the equipment, Sakichi aimed to create a system that would determine what the abnormalities were caused by and then coming up with ideas to prevent or stop such abnormalities. As a result, productivity improved,” continued Akio, the current president of Toyota Motor Corporation.
This care for those on the front lines is at the core of the spirit of the Toyoda family, and the greatness of the wider Toyota organization. That's why they never refer to their people as employees. Toyota calls them Team Members.
Automation with a human touch (jidoka) and manufacturing (monozukuri) are embodied in to the Toyota Production System. We all saw a bit more of these when the Filipino Team Members of Toyota Motor Philippines set aside the heavy equipment and powered on their sewing machines -just like Toyoda did almost a century ago- to serve a noble purpose when the situation called for it.