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
“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.