While the No.1 automaker in the world has been for a very long time the avid promoter of automation in setting up the pace for auto industry manufacturing prowess, it’s now going back to the roots – humans masters that craft any soulless piece to their will.
In one of Toyota’s oldest plants, one part of it is reserved to humans who took over from robots in sculpting metal pieces into crankshafts. Mitsuru Kawai – a 50 years company veteran – tasked by President Akio Toyoda to promote craftsmanship, says these men are a glimpse of both the future and the past.
“We need to become more solid and get back to basics, to sharpen our manual skills and further develop them,” said Kawai. “When I was a novice, experienced masters used to be called gods, and they could make anything.”
They were called Kami-sama in Japanese and they could reassert themselves as humans are now taking work away from robots all over Japan’s plants to try and develop new skills and in the process also improve production and the whole car-building experience.
“Toyota views their people who work in a plant like this as craftsmen who need to continue to refine their art and skill level,” said Jeff Liker, who has written eight books on Toyota. “In almost every company you would visit, the workers’ jobs are to feed parts into a machine and call somebody for help when it breaks down.”
Toyoda, 57, Toyota’s president has vowed to return the company founded by his grandfather to quality and efficiency, halting the growth mentality and freezing for three years any new plant plan.