Section 7. Modernization of Facilities

Item 6. Efforts for Quality Control

Kiichiro Toyoda's approach on quality improvement

After the Koromo Plant was built in 1938, Executive Vice President Kiichiro Toyoda formulated the following measures for the improvement of quality.1

  1. 1.Reinstate the Inspection and Improvement Department, headed by Executive Vice President Kiichiro himself in charge of quality improvement.
  2. 2.Inspection and Improvement Sub-Section inspects defects reported by Service Sub-Section product by product. In the presence of responsible staff from each plant, review manufacturing and inspection methods, and establish work methods anew.
  3. 3.Provide technical advisor to the Inspection and Improvement Department. The advisors set up standard work operations and give technical guidance to the workers accordingly.
  4. 4.Display defect samples in the defect processing plant, and while responsible staff of each plant research measures to eliminate the cause of the defect of the parts for which they are responsible, check progress of these measures by collecting defect statistics on a monthly basis.
  5. 5.Inspection Sub-Section to report directly to the Plant Administration Division, and establish inspection rules. Train Inspection Sub-Section in the necessary knowledge in the aim of improving inspection tools.

These above measures have aspects that led to the current quality control, which includes incorporating quality within processes, controlling through statistical techniques, and quality checking on characteristic points. In the same way as with the 'Just In Time' production method, however, Kiichiro's approach couldn't be realized under the wartime principle of priority to quantity.

Because the automotive industry is a general industry, a great variety of raw and secondary materials and parts are purchased from a wide range of suppliers. Consequently, the quality of these materials and parts greatly affect the final product, so it was difficult for even automotive plants that endeavoured to maintain quality control on their own to achieve that objective. In order to improve the cars' overall quality, a wide-ranging large scale quality control system was deemed necessary.

As Kiichiro had occasionally pointed out since expanding into the automotive business, the key to improving quality of cars was steel, the car's primary material. Inferior steel often led to quality defects in cars, but as this is a problem that is not merely a matter of quality control even the cause for these quality defects couldn't be solved.2

After the war it was said that "Japan's steel technology lags between 20-30 years behind the United States."3 However, steel manufacturers endeavoured to actively introduce technology and were committed to improve the quality of steel materials. Improving the quality of steel materials- the veritable 'sustenance' of industry-had an aspect of facilitating quality control in the automotive industry.

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