Home About MAC
The Next Generation Manufacturer Newsletter
Workforce Innovation Collaborative
Upcoming Programs Contact Us Send a Letter to the Editor
From the Desk of Jack Healy

Toyota's Success Relies on Training for the Future

By Kathie Mahoney, Editor, The MAC Action Newsline

One of the greatest systemic challenges facing manufacturers today is finding a skilled workforce.  As baby boomers retire, there are few people who have the necessary skills to fill their shoes.  In a survey conducted by Quinsigamond Community College, the three key industry challenge facing manufacturing companies over the next three years are:

  • Lack of a skilled labor pool
  • Expanding global competition
  • Health care costs. 

Skilled positions in manufacturing are going unfilled and more manufacturing jobs are vacant, leaving a gap in the economy and our production capabilities across the country. 

The media is constantly reporting how manufacturing jobs have declined over the past 10 years, but we have also heard that productivity in manufacturing has increased in that same time period.  How is this happening?  How are companies able to sustain and even increase productivity while working with fewer employees? TRAINING! TRAINING! And more TRAINING! 

Toyota Way Video

This training provides the skills necessary for both the employee and the company to grow.  However, when the person retires or leaves the company, that knowledge goes with them. More often than not, the new hire has not received the same training in their educational pursuits. 

As reported in the Massachusetts Manufacturing Chartbook, released by the Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development, Commonwealth Corporation:

With its focus on high value-added products and innovation, the Massachusetts manufacturing sector employs proportionally more engineers, managers, and computer occupations, but fewer blue-collar workers than the manufacturing sector nationwide. Manufacturing is a large part of the knowledge and innovation economy in the state, from the production of telecommunication equipment to pharmaceuticals to the many products reliant on electronic and software-based components.

Is training part of your company’s formal plan?  Do you have a strategic plan? 

We Need Employees to Meet Our Goals
Companies spend hours and thousands of dollars planning their next steps.  Whether it is a formal strategic plan or simply a plan to make the end of the quarter numbers, as company leaders you think about the future.  In your future plans, do you think about the training necessary to make those numbers or reach those goals?  Without the proper skills, the goals we set for our employees can be difficult to achieve. 

Imagine a pilot who has never had any training about how to operate a plane. His plane would probably crash. Imagine a prize fighter who has never been properly trained to box. He would probably get knocked out by a worthy opponent.  And yet, we expect our employees to perform jobs or work on machinery without the proper training and skills required to meet expectations. 

As a whole, there is little connection between the manufacturing community and our education system.  We do not talk to schools or area colleges to ensure our future skill needs are being heard and appropriate training provided. 

Training and Cross-Training at Toyota
Without these skills, we will not be able to continue to achieve the productivity gains made over the past 10 years.  Over the past 30 years, Toyota has taught manufacturers the importance of employee training and company wide cross training.  The basis for the Toyota philosophy, and thus its success, is training everyone and cross-training everyone. 

Some companies have learned the importance of training. MassMEP clients receive a $35 return on every $1 spent on training.

Prior to 1970, most everyone owned an American made car.  As the 1973 oil crisis hit consumers, they began looking for small cars with better fuel economy.  American car manufacturers had considered small economy cars to be an "entry level" product; in order to keep the prices low, small vehicles were not made to a high level of quality. Japanese customers, however, had a long-standing tradition of demanding small, fuel-efficient cars that were manufactured to a high level of quality. Because of this, companies like Toyota, Honda, and Nissan established a strong and growing presence in the United States in the 1970s. Now Toyota and Honda are exporting cars made in the USA to Europe!

The Toyota philosophy is well known today.  It evolved from the company's origins and is reflected in the terms "Lean Manufacturing" and "Just in Time Production," which the company was instrumental in developing.

The Toyota Way has four components:

  1. Long-term thinking as a basis for management decisions,
  2. A process for problem-solving,
  3. Adding value to the organization by developing its people, and
  4. Recognizing that continuously solving root problems drives organizational learning.

Today Toyota is on its way to being the largest automaker in the United States. 

Do you want to be the next Toyota in your particular industry?  If so, training needs to be a key piece of your strategic plan. 

MassMEP is pleased to announce a TIF incentive to manufacturing companies that provide training to their employees.

We are also offering a Leadership Growth Strategies event on July 21, 2008 at Holy Cross College in Worcester to help you develop your strategy and plan for those next steps.

For more information on either of these initiatives, please contact Kathie Mahoney at (508) 831-7020 or e-mail: kathiem@massmep.org

We Would Like Your Feedback ...