This post has to do more with corporate manufacturing philosophy than
making saw dust, but it might interest a few readers. In the weekend
edition of the WSJ there was an article describing a tour of the
Toyota Prius plant near Negoya. The word "jidoka" translates to
"Quality must be built in the manufacturing process. Never send a
defective item to the next process."
There is a rope which factory workers pull if they notice something
abnormal on the line.
How does this attention to QC relate to the recalls of so many Toyota
vehicles? How much do these recalls damage the brand ? Is there some
glitch in the wireless accelerator system or is there some Japanese
bashing being dished out by basically thenon technical lawyer types
Not sure how this relates. But I remember hearing
someone suggeted this in American factory.
Aparently, the "off" handle was on a high catwalk,
and to emergency shut down the line, someone had
to go up the ladder or stairs, can't remember.
Someone suggested a rope, atached to the shut down
switch handle. So that in emergency, a worker
didn't have to run to the higher level. Just pull
the handle via the rope.
The suggestion committee turned down because
someone could bump the rope, pushing it up, and
unsafely turn the assembly line back on.
QC of the kind practiced on the production line won't/can't catch either
design defects/shortcomings nor will assembly-line anything do anything
about firmware problems (altho it's still not clear that is or isn't a
The gal across the street from me works at the Tundra plant. Last I
heard, she installed either an exhaust manifold or power steerng hose.
Each worker does at least two tasks (they don't call it a "task"-- they
have some strange term for it) and every couple of hours, they take a
break, and alternate tasks.I imagine it is to try to make the line less
monotonous. Next time I talk to her, I'll ask about the rope, and
stopping the line, and her opinions on this mess Toyota is in. Larry
The type of quality control mention is very good, but it does not apply to
the Toyota problem. If your job is to install widgets in the chassis and
the widgets are bent the wrong way, you pull the rope and the problem can be
The acceleration problem is not evident on the assembly line, the parts
looked very good all the way from design to production to installation and
served well for a long time. It was well after the fact and after much
testing that a problem was found.
As for damaging the brand, it will hit them very hard for a long time. I
know a couple of people that won't consider a Toyota now. Maybe in a year
or four they will forget and buy one, but sales will be hurt. It is still
unclear what the Toyota people knew and how fast they acted. If they did in
fact try to hide, it will damage them more than the original problem.
I spent a lot of time working with semiconductor and associated assembly
reliability. This was not with the highly integrated units of today.
Glitches in the logic can be caused by extraneous noise spikes that can be
misinterpreted by the logic as a valid bit. Finding the root cause is likely
to be extremely difficult because of the level of intgration and
I hope that Toyota can really pin down and alleviate the current problem. As
automotive systems are, by their nature, noisy environments I dread the day
when a Toyota with all the "fixes" runs away from the driver.
Critical systems, and an automobile throttle control is a critcal system,
should have redundancy and fail-safe in its design.
I heard this same comment today in the media - " redundancy and
Then watching a fishing show they hailed how great an outboard engine
was, using 8 Million (?!) operations a second. I was shocked. It could
measure/reduce fuel use down to a frog hair..
I wonder if they're using Chinese integrated circuits that are picking
up satellite transmissions instructing the car's computer to sometimes
malfunction? OK, everybody put an aluminum foil hat over your Toyota
vehicle's computer, the Chinese are blackmailing Toyota again.
The description of Toyota's QC system was given to the WSJ reporter by
a Toyota employee,therefore it should be taken with a large grain of
salt. Ed is right, if the problem turns out to be software related,
no one on the assembly line would be aware of it. Then again the
corporate culture may have changed over the year, from quality to
profit as the prime goal.
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