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In-Sink: Lessons from Japan

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By Dean Sink, Mickey President

Mickey President Dean Sink (right) enjoys a "traditional" Japanese meal with Shaun Skinner, President of Isuzu Commercial Truck of Canada and EVP/GM ICTA.

Mickey President Dean Sink (right) enjoys a “traditional” Japanese meal with Shaun Skinner, President of Isuzu Commercial Truck of Canada and EVP/GM ICTA.

Earlier this month Isuzu Commercial Truck of America hosted a small group of transportation industry executives on a tour of its parent company’s facilities in Japan. I was fortunate enough to receive one of the invites.

My primary interest was to see first hand the automation that Japanese manufacturers have long been known for. Mickey recently purchased a 13-acre property adjacent to our existing manufacturing campus in High Point and we are planning to automate our assembly process from top to bottom, so the trip presented a very timely opportunity. I was not disappointed with the what I saw in the Isuzu factory and R&D Center in Fujisawa, Japan.

 

But the technology, as amazing as it is, does not really define Japanese manufacturing, at least not in my mind, and at least not at Isuzu. It’s the work ethic of the factory employees, it’s the workplace environment; it’s the efficiency. Their workspace is clean, organized and safe. Workers never have to reach for a tool – it’s always at their fingertips. There’s no wasted motion, the pace of work is impeccable; every worker is incredibly focused on the task at hand. They take tremendous pride in their workmanship, and it seems to be engrained from birth, much like family values.

Key line managers at the Isuzu factory meet before every shift to discuss, in great detail, safety, production and scheduling. Their razor sharp attention to detail is notable. In fact, in Fujisawa there is probably one engineer for every 2 factory workers. Their M.O. is to be the best in the business and it seems nothing else matters and nothing will get in their way. They plan, do, check and then do all over again, only better.

Dean at the Isuzu Factory and R&D Center in Fujisawa, Japan.

Dean at the Isuzu Factory and R&D Center in Fujisawa, Japan with a “truck of the future.”

Just when I thought I had it all figured out I drove over the Rainbow Bridge into the city of Tokyo. No graffiti, no litter. The cars, buses and trucks on the road were spotless. People were well dressed, they looked straight ahead as they walked on the street like they had someplace to go and needed to get there. The hotels were very clean, organized and well staffed; a place for everything and everything in its place. In addition to the Fujisawa factory we also visited the Isuzu corporate headquarters in Omori, Japan and the company’s Test Track in Hokkaido, an island on the north side of Japan. More of the same: clean, organized, efficient.

I came back to High Point with and a general sense that we are on a great course at Mickey because I see a lot of the Isuzu work culture in how we go about our business. We have always said that being the best is all that matters to Mickey, and nothing else matters.

I also came back with more than a few new ideas on how we can go from good to great. For example, we are already pretty good at paying attention to details – as you will read in the engineering story and convention coverage in this issue of THE MICKEY SPIRIT. But we can get even better at the details. And we’re going to.

Happy reading.

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