The automobile industry can be considered one of the most competitive industries that exists today. The production has to be flawless, the employees hardworking and the managers fully aware of their product. This case study discusses the Toyota production plant in Georgetown, Kentucky. In July of 1988 Toyota Motor Manufacturing (TMM), USA began producing Toyota Camry sedans. Toyota implements the Toyota Production System (TPS) in their Georgetown plant, similar to all other production facilities. This system reduces cost by eliminating waste. Excess production consumes extra space and human resources to control the products. The two governing principles that Toyota modeled the TPS system after are Just-In-Time (JIT) production and Jidoka. JIT emphasizes the process of producing only what is needed when it is needed. Jidoka focuses on making any production problems instantly self-evident and production would cease when a problem arose. Toyota performs Jidoka by using andon cords to highlight with buzzers and lights the step with the non-compliance. Toyota uses these processes to outperform its competitors and deliver a high quality product. The Georgetown production plant uses Kentucky Framed Seat (KFS) to supply the seat sets for the entire production taking place at the plant. KFS follows a JIT system of production. When the body shells are finished with the paint line the information about the car is sent to KFS. This information enables KFS to ship out the corresponding seat sets in the correct amount of time to synchronize when the car arrives at final assembly and the seat sets are needed to be installed. In April of 1992 the Georgetown plant began to experience a decreasing run ratio. This ratio is calculated as the number of actual cars that were assembled to the actual amount of cars that could have been assembled with no interruptions to the assembly line. During the May 1st meeting of Lewis, DaPrile, Friesen and other managers in the overflow parking area it was found that 18 vehicles had various seat problems. A seat problem ranged from if a seat did not match the corresponding car when it arrived at the final assembly area or if the seat contained defects. All of these problems were handled in a similar way, the andon cord was pulled to alert the team lead and then the car was flagged to be alerted to Quality Control. From here the car would be sent to the Code 1 clinic area to see if the problem could be fixed, if not then the car was sent to the overflow parking area where it would wait until a new seat arrived from KFS. Upon inspection into the overflow parking area one car was found to have been flagged on April 27th, this time delay was unacceptable because the maximum amount of time in this area should be two shifts. This seat problem was starting to become a large factor that would affect the production ability within the Georgetown plant. Many possible answers exist that would help Toyota mitigate the risk with the seat sets supplied from KFS. A failure investigation would be the best course of action. This would find the problem and address the issue so it would stop the repeating problem from occurring. While the investigation is ongoing interim solutions could take place that could also be implemented in the long term if deemed necessary. KFS could ship replacement seats more frequently than twice daily. TMM could carry spare seats in inventory to ensure that any seats could be swapped out immediately.
A failure investigation would best serve Toyota in the long-term and would help all employees study the problem rather than just use a short-term solution. This failure investigation would be similar to the "Five Whys" approach (exhibit 2). The failure investigation would reinforce the Toyota emphasis of "good thinking" by sticking to the facts and getting down to the root cause of the problem. The failure investigation would begin...
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