The Rupp Report: Toyota Or Toyoda? – A True Fairy Tale

After considering the many stories from the recent ITMF congress in Beijing, the Rupp Report had the idea to switch from some “need to know” stories to a “nice to know” report.
The name Toyota — or is it Toyoda? — is known worldwide because Toyota remains the largest car manufacturer in world despite some recent quality problems. Among the many Toyota drivers, however, it is not very well-known that Toyota got started on its way to the top as a weaving loom manufacturer. This fact is quite familiar to many textile professionals however.
The Start
Sakichi Toyoda (1867-1930) was the son of a carpenter. Legend says as a child, Sakichi-san watched his mother in the evenings as she worked on a handloom producing fabrics to increase the income of the then very poor family. Probably here was the start of his later nickname, the “king of inventors,” as he thought of ideas to facilitate the hard manual job performed by his mother. Legend also says that Toyoda worked on his ideas in secrecy in the attic, because, by Japanese tradition, his carpenter father expected his son also to become a carpenter.
Despite the secrecy, Toyoda did a good job with the loom for his mother and even got a patent on his idea. In 1924, his masterpiece, the G-model Toyoda automatic loom, was built. It was a more or less automatic weaving loom with a lot of additional and quite revolutionary features for that time. Two years later, Toyoda Automatic Loom Works Ltd. was founded. Toyoda claimed the new G model delivered great quality improvements and increased productivity 20 times.
The Five Whys
Toyoda also is known as the inventor of the Jidōka principle, the so-called autonomic automation. This means the machine stops automatically if a problem occurs. The follow-up of Jidōka eventually became part of the Toyoda’s production system. Toyoda developed the concept of  “Five Whys,” whereby a series of (at least) five questions are asked to solve a problem. Then, the production process is changed so the problem does not occur again.
In this context, it is important to dig deeper until the faulty process step is clearly identified and is no longer divisible, even with more than five questions. This can be checked, for example, if the causal link is formulated vice versa. Following is an example from the Toyota Car Division. The problem is that the car will not start.
Question 1: Why does the car not start?
The starter battery is empty.
Q2: Why is the starter battery empty?
The alternator does not work.
Q3: Why is the alternator not working?
The drive belt has broken.
Q4: Why is the drive belt broken?
The drive belt was never replaced.
Q5: Why was the drive belt never replaced?
The car has never been serviced.
The Automotive Department Opens
In 1933, the company established its automobile department, led by Kichiiro Toyoda (1894-1952), the eldest son of Sakichi. Sakichi encouraged Kichiiro shortly before his death to fulfill his own dream and become a car builder. Kichiiro’s decision to found Toyota Motor Corp. was viewed as a very risky move. How risky it was is illustrated in the continued success of Toyota today. And the rest of the success story of today’s Toyota Industries is history.
Back To The Present
Regarding weaving machines, Toyota Textile Machinery, as the company is called today, is one of the few remaining global players manufacturing high efficiency weaving machines. Last year, Toyota launched a new generation of air-jet machines — the JAT810. The company claims that the machine has “remarkable energy savings with a completely new weft insertion system, and an optimized frame structure resulting in lower vibrations during high-speed operation.
As the global leader and virtually only producer of water-jet weaving machines that mainly are used for plain filament fabrics, the company has 40 years of experience in this sector. According to Toyota, the machines can reach a speed of 1,250 revolutions per minute with a very high efficiency.
Some Financial Results
In spite of recent financial problems experienced by Japan, during the second quarter of the fiscal year 2014-15, total consolidated net sales of Toyota Industries amounted to 1,046 billion yen. This is an increase of 64.6 billion yen, or 7 percent, compared to the same quarter of the previous fiscal year.
Net sales of the automobile segment totaled 519.2 billion yen, an increase of 12.1 billion yen or 2 percent, compared to year earlier numbers. Within this segment, net sales of the vehicle business amounted to 238.7 billion yen, on par when compared to the same quarter of the previous fiscal year.
Net sales of the textile machinery segment totaled 32.6 billion yen, an increase of 1.1 billion yen, or 4 percent. Sales of instruments for measuring textile quality increased, while those for weaving machinery recorded a decrease.
Toyota reported: “In terms of overall profit, despite an increase in labor costs, depreciation costs and raw material costs, Toyota Industries recorded an increase in sales while promoting cost reduction efforts throughout the Toyota Industries Group and exchange rate fluctuations. As a result, Toyota Industries posted consolidated operating income of 56.7 billion yen, an increase of 4.9 billion yen, or 10 percent, from the same period of the previous fiscal year and ordinary income of 87.0 billion yen, an increase of 22.2 billion yen, or 34 percent. Net income totaled 60.9 billion yen, an increase of 17.4 billion yen, or 40 percent, from the same period of the previous fiscal year.
November 19, 2014