"The Evolution of Toyota's Quality Assurance System"
released on October 2010
The roots of Toyota's quality assurance system can be traced back to when Sakichi Toyoda was still building and improving experimental loom models in 1905. Kanegafuchi Spinning Co., Ltd., one of Japan's leading spinning companies at the time, contacted Sakichi to say it was interested in conducting performance tests to compare his automatic broad-width loom with other makes. The performance tests continued for a year, and the results were not so favorable to Sakichi's looms, perhaps because he had entrusted the building and pre-testing to other companies.
Sakichi reflected on the causes of the poor results by writing: "You can't be creative and complete a piece of work unless, above all, you work on the construction yourself, attend carefully to every single detail, and experiment over and over again. And you must never leave the production to anyone else. These are the lessons I learned from experience, and they should be minded." After that, Sakichi conducted all his own tests without relying on others and successfully developed a broad-width automatic power loom in 1908.
His approach to quality assurance would be reapplied when Toyota Motor Co., Ltd. decided in the early 1960's to implement Total Quality Control (TQC) activities to solve quality issues early and prevent any reoccurrences. One TQC activity developed by the Service Division of Toyota Motor Sales Co., Ltd. (TMS) in March 1969 was the "Toyota Customer Follow-up System," which recorded customers' addresses, names, car histories, vehicle problems, and repair locations onto cards. This system enabled TMS to classify, sort, and organize customer information, while at the same time address quality issues promptly when necessary.
Due to the implementation of TQC activities, the quality of Toyota's products improved. Toyota's awareness about the importance of safety and product quality, as well as their corporate social responsibility, was further strengthened when a vehicle recall system was instituted in the U.S. in January 1968. While automakers were not required to make public announcements about recalls, news soon reached Japan that some Japanese and European automakers in the U.S. were quietly recalling defective vehicles and repairing them. This prompted the Ministry of Transport in Japan to establish a recall system of its own in June 1969, obliging automakers to publicly disclose defective cars.
That same month, then Toyota Motor Co., Ltd. (TMC) President Eiji Toyoda sent an internal message to all TMC associates asking them to learn from the recall issue, while then TMS President Shotaro Kamiya issued a memo to all TMS associates calling for a return to the Customer First principle and renewed efforts in regaining customers' trust in Toyota. TMC and TMS also held joint meetings and agreed to gather accurate market information, check defects at each production process, improve production process control and carry out stricter inspections in order to eliminate the manufacture of defective products.
Since implementing these safeguards into the Toyota Production System, the quality and reliability of Toyota-made vehicles improved greatly in the succeeding years.