MEET SA’S MASTER OF KAIZEN

CON­TIN­U­OUS IM­PROVE­MENT IS AT THE HEART OF TOY­OTA’S VAL­UES. ONE MAN­AGER, THABANG MOKOENA, HAS STARTED IM­PLE­MENT­ING THE JA­PANESE PHI­LOS­O­PHY DRIV­ING THIS SPIRIT IN SA

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“I RE­ALISED THAT THE BEST WAY TO GET STAFF TO CO­OP­ER­ATE WAS BY SHOW­ING THEM THE BEN­E­FITS OF THE NEW PRO­CESSES.”

Kaizen, which means “con­tin­u­ous im­prove­ment” in Ja­panese, is a long-term ap­proach to work that sys­tem­at­i­cally seeks to achieve small, in­cre­men­tal im­prove­ments in pro­cesses, ef­fi­ciency and qual­ity.

Few peo­ple in SA un­der­stand this bet­ter than Thabang Mokoena, Man­ager: Dealer Parts Kaizen, who was sent to Ja­pan for an in­ten­sive in­duc­tion into the prin­ci­ples of this phi­los­o­phy, which he says has pos­i­tively im­pacted all as­pects of his life.

WHAT’S THE KAIZEN PHI­LOS­O­PHY ALL ABOUT? It’s about con­tin­u­ally striv­ing for ex­cel­lence, but not per­fec­tion. Ex­cel­lence is about be­ing the best you can be, while per­fec­tion im­plies that there’s noth­ing fur­ther to achieve, which can’t be true, be­cause there’ll al­ways be ways of mak­ing our cus­tomers hap­pier. Ba­si­cally, Kaizen re­quires us al­ways to think a few steps ahead, weigh op­tions and work to­wards the best out­come.

WHAT ROLE DO YOU PLAY IN THE TOY­OTA MAN­U­FAC­TUR­ING PROCESS? I look af­ter the dealer parts oper­a­tions, with projects like Dealer Parts Oper­a­tions Kaizen (DPOK) and Dealer Or­der Kaizen. The oper­a­tions at the deal­er­ships can only sup­port our over­all oper­a­tions and tar­gets if they’re run­ning as ef­fi­ciently as pos­si­ble.

HOW WERE YOU SE­LECTED TO UN­DERGO THE KAIZEN TRAIN­ING? I’ve been on the DPOK project for some time. When I moved from the Dealer De­vel­op­ment De­part­ment to the Parts Oper­a­tions De­part­ment, this more di­rect ex­po­sure helped me bet­ter un­der­stand the parts busi­ness. My GM, Bren­dan Moore, and the TMC co-or­di­na­tor at the time, Shun­suke Goto, gave me the op­por­tu­nity to do the DPOK Pro­moter course in Ja­pan, which they thought would equip me with the skills re­quired to un­der­take the project more ef­fi­ciently. I’m glad they gave me that re­spon­si­bil­ity.

WHAT WAS IT LIKE VIS­IT­ING JA­PAN? To be hon­est, I didn’t see as much of it as I’d have liked. The main aim of the visit was the train­ing. What I did ex­pe­ri­ence was quite amaz­ing: the peo­ple, the sights and es­pe­cially the food. The train­ing took three days, but in all, I spent five days in Nagoya. WHAT SPECIF­I­CALLY DID THEY TEACH YOU? DPOK en­hances parts oper­a­tions by op­ti­mis­ing dealer in­ven­tory, stor­age con­di­tions, han­dling cus­tomer spe­cial or­der parts and manag­ing ETA in­for­ma­tion from TSAM to the dealer, and from the dealer to the cus­tomer. I then had to im­ple­ment th­ese Kaizen ac­tiv­i­ties at a pi­lot dealer, bring­ing it up to a stan­dard sat­is­fac­tory for TMC.

WHAT CHAL­LENGES HAVE YOU

FACED IN TEACH­ING THE KAIZEN PHI­LOS­O­PHY TO OTH­ERS? Most of the staff have been work­ing in the dealer en­vi­ron­ment for years and are pretty set in the way they op­er­ate, so – as a rel­a­tive out­sider with less ex­pe­ri­ence than they had – I met some re­sis­tance. I re­alised that the best way to get them to co-op­er­ate was by show­ing them the ben­e­fits of the new pro­cesses. Once that was demon­strated, they not only bought into them, but be­gan think­ing about how they could im­prove their own pro­cesses.

In the long run, the teach­ings should be used as a spring­board for deal­ers to im­ple­ment their own Kaizen ac­tiv­i­ties. They should be able to de­velop bet­ter pro­cesses to max­imise ef­fi­ciency and prof­its, sup­port­ing TSAM and pro­vid­ing the best pos­si­ble cus­tomer ex­pe­ri­ence.

WHAT ARE YOUR FU­TURE PLANS?

I’ve only been at Toy­ota for six years, with just over a year in the Parts Oper­a­tions De­part­ment. I still have a lot to learn there, as well as from the dealer net­work and other Toy­ota dis­trib­u­tors. As I gain more knowl­edge, I want to add more value to the busi­ness through DPOK, par­tic­u­larly in the wider roll-out and fu­ture projects.

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