Toyota’s Master Craftsmen: Takumi

Japanese Master Brush Maker Yoshiyuki Hata
Japanese master brush maker Yoshiyuki Hata

You may have heard of Takumi at Toyota. Takumi in general are highly skilled artisans that excel in their craft. Despite Toyota mass-producing cars using lots of machines, they also employ hundreds of Takumi. This blog post takes a deeper look at what a Takumi is, and why they are so important for Toyota and other Japanese companies.

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What Is Ikigai?

Recently, the Japanese word ikigai has been popping up as a way to find happiness. While not quite a manufacturing theme, it is related to industry and to Japanese culture, and hence I decided to write a blog post about it. It is a lot of hubbub around a few good (but not new) ideas, wrapped in a out-of-context Japanese word.

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Example of Problem Solving – Japanese Men’s Relay Team Rio 2016

Good problem solving can seriously help you with the performance in your plant. John Shook recently pointed out another nice example to me: the Japanese Men’s 4x100m relay team during the 2016 Olympics in Rio. They were the underdogs, with none of their team having ever run 100m in under 10 seconds. Yet they stunningly won the silver medal! They achieved this through good problem solving. Let me show you the details:

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The Grand Tour of Japanese Automotive – Subaru

Subaru is the smallest of the Japanese car makers, with barely a million vehicles per year in 2016, which makes it the 23rd-largest vehicle maker in the world. Yet, since it produces almost exclusively four-wheel-drives, it is also the largest maker of four-wheel-drives. Despite its small size Subaru is highly profitable. During my grand tour of Japanese automotive, I visited Subaru in February 2018. Here are my findings. 

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The Grand Tour of Japanese Automotive – Mazda

Mazda is the seventeenth-largest car maker in the world with around 1.5 million cars produced in 2016. Most of them were produced in Japan. It is also the only car maker that mass-produced cars using a rotary engine. As part of my Grand Tour of Japanese Automotive Plants, I visited their main Hiroshima plant in January 2018 (one of three Mazda plants in Japan). Here’s what I found:

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The Grand Tour of Japanese Automotive – Mitsubishi

Mitsubishi Motors is the oldest of the major car companies in Japan, established 1917. It is also one of the smaller ones in Japan, with only slightly more than 1 million vehicles produced in 2016. In January 2018, I had the chance to visit their Okazaki plant near Nagoya. I also visited the Mitsubishi Fuso plant in Kawasaki and one of its suppliers, although that is technically another company. Let me give you the gist of the Mitsubishi Motors Plant Okazaki.

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The Grand Tour of Japanese Automotive – Honda Kumamoto

Honda is the largest motorcycle manufacturer in the world with around 17 million motorcycles sold in 2017 (compared to number 2 Yamaha with around 5.2 million, 2015 figures).  In January 2018 I had a chance to visit their Honda Kumamoto plant. This plant gave me a much better and very different impression than the Honda Sayama automotive plant.

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