Safety and production training at Toyota Industrial Equipment Manufacturing

In this Big Picture Interview, Tony Miller talks about the importance of the dojo.

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Tony Miller is vice president of manufacturing and engineering at the Toyota Industrial Equipment Manufacturing (TIEM) North American headquarters in Columbus, Indiana. The 126-acre campus includes 1 million sq ft of facilities, including the National Customer Center and training center and manufacturing facilities, where about 1,000 associates produce more than 130 lift trucks daily. Miller talked with Plant Services about TIEM's workforce, safety, training, maintenance, and energy management.

PS: Despite the unemployment rate, finding qualified workers to fill skill positions can be challenging. What sorts of strategies or partnerships are you using to overcome those hurdles?

TM: It’s a challenge finding production engineers with the skill level we’re looking for. Typically we use professional recruiters. Innovation comes in our products and in our manufacturing process. Innovation is not easily copied.

PS: You started hiring temporary associates in 2010, and now about a third of your associates are temporaries, as well. What are some of the obstacles created by having these temporary employees, especially in the area of safety?

lead tony millerTM: When we had a long-term seasoned workforce, we were blessed, and our safety record continued to improve year over year. We’re building on that same foundation and continuing to train. When you start hiring new people all of the time from the temporary workforce, you lose that knowledge base, and you’re at ground zero with 30% of your workforce, and they’re an important part of what we do. It’s a great learning opportunity where we’ve been able to add some onboarding training. We do some hands-on training in our safety dojo. We incorporate additional stretching exercises twice a week. We saw an increase in ergonomic injuries, and the majority of those injuries were in the temporary workforce.

PS: What is a dojo, and what impact is it designed to have?

TM: A dojo is a Japanese name for a training center. The safety dojo has 20 training stations that are very specific to Toyota. Some stations are required by law. They can listen to what a shelter alarm sounds like or what a fire alarm sounds like. There’s a station for ergonomics to show how much weight you’re allowed to pick up as a Toyota associate. One station explains what lockout/tagout is. Every year the dojo is reshaped. The emphasis is put on the weaknesses from the year before. In what areas did we have spikes in injuries? The safety department will analyze that every year and update their dojo training. The executives are actually the first group that will go through that dojo training and give some additional comments about things we think they can improve. As soon as the executives are done, every member of the workforce will have to go through their annual refresher training in a dojo. That’s a newly hired associate’s first stop. The second stop would be the line dojo. It has 10-15 stations, depending on the line. They would learn specifics and hazards of the line and learn about quality.

PS: What percentage of predictive, preventive, and reactive maintenance practices are you currently employing, and what are your plans for the immediate future?

TM: Based on man-hours, we’re about 60% preventive maintenance, 40% reactive maintenance, and then a sliver of predictive maintenance, mainly vibration analysis on machine centers. Our vision for 2020 is to get that much closer to 90% predictive and preventive maintenance and 10% reactive maintenance.

PS: Are there any plans for implementing any operator-based, or autonomous, maintenance?

TM: We spent a considerable amount of time over the past two years increasing our autonomous maintenance, or TPM. We thought TPM was a sterile comment, so we call it machine care. Our goal is for the operators to take full ownership of the machines. There’s nobody better than the person who runs the machine to understand when the machine is doing something different. We use a mail-slot system. Each mail slot has one sheet, and the operator completes a checklist, indicates any problem they find, and put the sheet back in the mail slot, so, at the end of the shift, the supervisor can confirm that everyone has completed their autonomous maintenance tasks for the day.

PS: Who is responsible for energy at your facility, and how do you monitor energy consumption?

TM: In our facilities engineering group, we have an individual, and part of his responsibilities is energy management and cost reduction related to energy. Recently, we completed an installation of an energy monitoring system on every distribution panel in the plant. We’ve linked that usage to a department and then linked that to a cost per unit, so each of the department leaders now has visibility to how much energy per unit, or dollar per unit, they are contributing, and then it drives ownership to that level of making sure their equipment is running as efficiently as it can and making sure equipment gets turned off at break times and in the evenings. We’re trying to visualize where we’re using our energy and identify what we can do to provide those improvement points. As part of that monitoring system, we also include our eight air compressors, so we can easily monitor how much energy each air compressor is using throughout the day. We found one very interesting aspect. We expected our weekend energy consumption from air compressors to be zero. But there’s only about a 60% drop from a weekday to a weekend. It became obvious to us quickly that maybe we’re not quite as energy efficient as we thought we were, especially related to the air compressors.

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