Sharing the SPS Journey

The room was packed with fellow Toyota suppliers at the annual Bluegrass Automotive Manufacturers Association (BAMA), sponsored by Toyota, conference last week. Daric Morell, director of manufacturing, walked up to the stage to speak in front of hundreds of people about Shape’s journey with the Toyota Production System.

BAMA reached out to Daric, Jay Blanchard, continuous improvement manager, Craig Arends, 1900 plant manager, because of the unique story behind Shape’s journey. Usually when Toyota comes into manufacturers to help them with their production systems, it’s because the supplier is in crisis mode – meaning that if they don’t change their ways, they could ultimately shut down Toyota. But this wasn’t the case for us.

Shape reached out to Toyota because we wanted to learn from one of the best manufacturers in the world. This was the first time that a company has reached out to Toyota to engage in a learning experience and not because of a crisis. For this reason, and the great success that Toyota has seen with Shape’s commitment, they wanted us to share the experience in hopes that other suppliers would seek out this benefit as well.

“It was privilege to present our lean journey to BAMA. Part of a lean culture is sharing what you learn. So the opportunity to share both where we are having success, and some of the problems that we have had in the past, with other organizations felt good,” said Daric. “The feedback after the event from Toyota and other BAMA member organizations was very positive.”

Our journey started last fall, when Toyota VIPs visited Shape to learn more about our production system. Over the course of the following months, Toyota sent representatives to guide us through improving our production system by using their finely tuned tools. The changes have been small, but the results have been big. Our production system continues to use the tools that Toyota taught us. Over the next several months, Toyota will be stopping by to see how we’re progressing and continue to strengthen our Shape Production System.

“Using the TPS tools is still fragile, however we are making strides daily to better understand where we are, what we have to accomplish, and what lies ahead,” said Jay. “We have quite a bit of momentum at this time and we are actively cascading the philosophy to numerous team members at all levels of the organization. Cultural development is paramount, we have to build a culture that sees the value in work done at this level.”