Meeting Yoshiki Iwata – “Shopfloor Kaizen Breakthrough” – Day 1

So picking up from my last blog, the five of us set off from the Unipart team, heading out to a 2 week study mission across North America, beginning with a Kaizen Breakthrough week in Michigan.

(Dave, Adrian, John, Dave 2 and myself)

The trip from the UK seemed to be uneventful, I forget who we flew with that day but I know we passed through Chicago O’Hare and then onto Grand Rapids – Michigan on the shores of the great lakes. As this was my first trip to the US, I was somewhat blown away at the scale of the place.

We arrived late that night and I recall a quick beer and then bed was in order as we had an early start the next day.

Our host company was the Donnelly Corporation, who were a large automotive supplier who specialised in glass, lighting and mirror systems. Our base for the week was one of their larger manufacturing plants in Holland, MI. However the first Day was spent in the Holiday Inn Conference centre attending key note presentation to over 100 attendees who were eager to soak up the knowledge.

8:45am July 24th 1995 was one of  my first true Lean highlights as I listened to Yoshiki Iwata talk through his interpreter, about “Kaizen’s role in the current economic environment”.

Iwata was one of the much vaunted team, that had spent their entire career developing the Toyota Production System led by Taichii Ohno himself.

I seemed to remember he was is no mood to discuss why we needed to think about going Lean, we just had to do as he said!

He was such a great speaker and he had every one of us enthralled with his wisdom and understanding of how Kaizen was the answer to most of our questions on sustainable improvement.

For me it was the start of my journey, and I had the chance to talk with Iwata-San during the break and remember the advice he gave me.

” At the end of every day, ask yourself the question, what did you improve today”

I decided that this would be a tenet by which I would try to follow and 20 years later believe this is one of the best pieces of advice I ever took.

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