If you are in the San Francisco Bay Area, you may not want to miss the chance to visit
the NUMMI plant in Fremont, CA. You can even book your place in a free factory tour
at the Nummi web site – http://www.nummi.com/tours.html . Nummi is a joint venture between
General Motors and Toyota. They took a badly performing General Motors plant and turned
it into one of the most productive, best paying automative plants in the U.S.
In the same assembly line you will see Toyota Corollas being manufactured along with
Pontiac Vibes (these are the same as the Toyota Matrix). They also have a separate Truck like that
assembles Toyota Trucks.
As with all other Toyota plants, this one also follows the Toyota Production System with
Just-in-Time and Continuous Process Improvement as the basic underpinnings.
What is most interesting about the NUMMI story is the time that they took to get to their
current state of Quality, Productivity and Cost. It took them almost two years to stabilize the
assembly line and get to the current state. They did not care about the productivity part of the
assembly line in the beginning. They were watching and fixing every problem by addressing Root Causes
properly even if it meant bringing the assembly line to a dead stop for hours.
However, once rootcauses are addressed like this, when your steady state is reached, your quality, productivity
and cost are all at their best levels!
The striking lesson here is the need for addressing root causes. It is estimated that in U.S Healthcare,
root causes for the escalating and out of control costs are Administrative Infficiences and lack of emphasis
on preventive healthcare.
Administrative processes in U.S Healthcare are so undermechanized and manual. Support for preventive
healthcare is so lacking from Insurance companies, that just these two root causes alone, when fixed, are
promising hundreds of billions of dollars in cost reduction!
Root Cause analysis has proven itself in Manufacturing and holds so much promise in other areas
like service business processes. It takes patience and a deep understanding of how and why they work.
Of course, services are different from manufacturing but the whole idea is one of observation and
Bill Joe Shaver inspired Johnny Cash, the country singer so much with this song. When Johnny Cash was
recovering from Alcohol and Drug addiction, this song is said to have given him a lot of strength to
battle them. Seems like the song has an appropriate recipe for Continuous Process Improvement also!
I’m just and old chunk of coal now Lord / but I’m gonna be a diamond some day.
I’m gonna learn the best words to talk / gonna search and find a better way to walk, yeah!
I’m gonna spit and polish my old rough-edged self / til I get rid of every single flaw.
well I’m gonna be the world’s best friend, / gonna go ’round shakin’ ev’rybody’s hand, yeah!"
I’m just an old chunk of coal now Lord / but I’m gonna be a diamond some day
— Billy Joe Shaver, Country Singer