We have discussed Toyota’s R&D management processes extensively (here and here). You might also remember Toyota’s recalls and problems a couple of years ago. Toyota’s president (Mr. Toyoda) had announced that he would beef up the quality control processes to address these problems. In fact, Toyota did announce an increased cycle of quality control (see Devil’s Advocate Policy). We had discussed that the root cause of Toyota’s problems was increased system complexity, and that increased quality control would not be able to address underlying problems. This analysis was later validated by others. Now Toyota is talking about changing their R&D processes (See Toyota aims to spice up cars with new development methods)
|image from engadget
Details are scarce, but the three key points made in the article, if implemented correctly, will definitely benefit Toyota. The first is to reduce the bureaucratic overhead on the development process. It is amazing to know that 80 to 100 executives were previously included in the approval loop. It appears that Toyota will eliminate some of the reviews:
“The company will also give greater authority to chief engineers and slash the number of executives involved in the design review process — about 80 to 100 previously — to eliminate layers of decision-making.”
This can be a step in the right direction. As we had discussed earlier, reviews and post design quality control are rarely effective because most design decisions have already been made by then. The additional effort needs to be to drive risk management decisions into upfront planning. Toyota seems to be addressing that concern as well:
Greater cooperation between the planning and design divisions will allow more design freedom…
Finally, the company is going to move focus away from near-term sales volume and growth to longer-term customer/product focus. We had also pointed out this to be a key problem.
“The feeling at the time was, ‘If we build it, they will come,'” Toyoda told reporters at the automaker’s headquarters in central Japan today. “Instead of developing what customers would want next, we were making cars that would rake in sales.”
I love Toyota products and wish them luck.