Motor Corp. is accustomed to being everyone's target, whether it be for quality, customer satisfaction, manufacturing efficiency or market acumen. But Toshiaki (Tag) Taguchi, president, Toyota Motor North America Inc., says even Toyota needs to improve.
In his Wednesday presentation here, Mr. Taguchi says one of's overriding priorities is to capitalize on fast-moving new technical advances to help improve its already benchmark products and manufacturing processes. He says that new technology means the automotive sector must move more quickly than ever before, and admits that adopting change will be particularly crucial for historically methodical Toyota.
"At Toyota, we are concerned that the pace may outrun the tenacious, incremental approach that has served us so well in the past."
Mr. Taguchi says Toyota is closely examining the implications of new electronic technology and how to best capitalize on it for the best interests of the company - and its customers.
For example, he says, "When it comes to manufacturing plants, new technology is helping in hundreds of ways." He believes that despite Toyota's high levels of plant performance, the company's current average of about one problem per vehicle is "one too many."
New electronic technology, says Mr. Taguchi, is streamlining communications with suppliers to improve efficiency through the supplier chain. Toyota has adopted innovations like its Worldwide Automotive Real-Time Purchasing (WARP) system to eliminate wasted time and administrative hassles, allowing personnel to spend more time on higher-value tasks. WARP creates a "living document" that follows a component throughout the supply chain and to the assembly plant; any changes are communicated concurrently to all relevant parties, saving time and wasteful paper trails.
Those sort of innovations, says Mr. Taguchi, are helping Toyota to move fast on the smallest matter, which has not been a strong point for the enormous company, he admits.
"Typically, we take too long before we take action. And then we spend too much time fixing the problem," he says of matters like fixing a water leak on the new Avalon large car, for example. He says that in the case of the Avalon, although only a small number of customers mentioned the leak, the problem was quickly traced to a supplier's die and summarily corrected - thanks to the speedy new process.
Technology also is bringing efficiency to communication with customers and dealers, says Mr. Taguchi. He says initiatives like Toyota's new Dealer Daily and the consumer Website www.buyatoyota.com are improving its relationships at the retail level.
Dealer Daily, says Mr. Taguchi, is an "electronic pipeline" with its near-1,400 Toyota and Lexus dealers that enables quicker transactions.
And Toyota is testing its new consumer Website, which allows customers to see vehicle availablility and obtain price quotes and financing. That site, for now, is only for customers in the state of Washington.