MIS2101 Section 702 – Amy Lavin – Spring 2014

In Surprising News, Toyota is Replacing Some Robots with Humans

http://www.scdigest.com/ontarget/14-04-08-1.php?cid=7964

In today’s day and age, the usage of robotic machinery has become commonplace among the driving forces of the automotive market, two of those main companies being Honda and Toyota. Honda and Toyota, long-term rivals both hailing from Japan, have been at the forefront of innovation in robotics usage for automative supply chain networks for the past decade. However, Toyota has now made a bold move in their supply chain processes by placing importance on getting back to the basics of the process by tranisitioning back to a more traditional process with the usage of more humans. “We need to become more solid and get back to basics, to sharpen our manual skills and further develop them,” states Mitsuru Kawai who is spearheading the increased usage of humans  manufacturing plants for Toyota. With this new direction, Toyota hopes to maintain their high market share  in the United States with this transition.

1. If you were Akio Toyoda, CEO of Toyota, would you want to take a step back in your machinery by using humans over robotic machines? Why or why not?

2. Do you believe that by using humans in the supply process will slow down the supply chain process at Toyota? Why or why not?

3. In a field such as the automotive industry this is a particularly odd move at first sight, especially in the eyes of competitors who are consistently raising the bar on their robotic processes. If Toyota becomes noticeably successful with their reduction in the usage of robotics, do you think others will follow them on this backtracking path? Why or why not?

9 Responses to In Surprising News, Toyota is Replacing Some Robots with Humans

  • I do not believe that the CEO of Toyota is necessarily taking a step back in with their machinery. by adding humans to their supply chain. Toyota’s CEO stated that by adding humans, it allowed new innovations to be made to existing machinery. Without humans in the process, these improvements would never had been made and, therefore, adding humans into the chain can be considered an improvement rather than a step back.

    By adding humans into the supply chain it may temporarily slow things down. However, humans may be able to be a positive influence to the process in two ways. The first is they may be able to come up with new ideas on how to improve the system as stated before. Secondly, they may be able to catch problems that machines cannot catch which will help the company avoid the ultimate slow down, a supply chain shut down.

    If Toyota can prove that their new system is the most effective and that having an all robotic system is not ideal, then competitors will be forced to make the switch in order to stay competitive.

  • 1. If you were Akio Toyoda, CEO of Toyota, would you want to take a step back in your machinery by using humans over robotic machines? Why or why not?
    I love the idea of using humans. I completely agree with the article that you can’t improve the machines if you don’t understand how the part gets made.

    2. Do you believe that by using humans in the supply process will slow down the supply chain process at Toyota? Why or why not?
    There will be some effect but not major. I believe they will have something in place to help keep the process running smoothly.

    3. In a field such as the automotive industry this is a particularly odd move at first sight, especially in the eyes of competitors who are consistently raising the bar on their robotic processes. If Toyota becomes noticeably successful with their reduction in the usage of robotics, do you think others will follow them on this backtracking path? Why or why not?
    I definitely think others will follow. Once a company sees a new process as a success, they will try it to improve their company. I believe it’s done a lot with competing companies.

  • Interesting article, Zachary! I thought this was a great quote: “the hands-on lessons learned can then be applied to understand and reprogram machines to cut down on waste and improve processes.” Interesting to think about the real meaning?

  • That was what I found so cool about the article was the ability to take a step back so that they could then move forward. You can tell they’re almost poised to take the lessons they learn from this process and almost immediately move back towards robotics (at least in my opinion) after they have learned enough about where the improvements can be made.

  • 1. The use of robotics in the automotive industry is suitable in some aspects. However, a human on the other hand, can catch issues/problems on a vehicle before it leaves the assembly line. Whereas a robot is only a machine that is programmed to do a specific job and nothing more and that is the problem.

    2. Yes, replacing robots with humans will slow down the supply chain process. However, although the robot can perform the task faster, the robot lacks the ability to stop when a part or merchandise is defective. That is where the human touch is necessary. While the robot can do the job faster (quantity), a human can avoid a faulty part being installed (quality).

    3. With Toyota being a major automobile maker, I do believe that if other major automobile manufacturers, i.e., GM, Ford, etc., would follow suit. It cannot always be about the bottom line. It should be about the quality of the product, to which Toyota has a reputation for.

  • 1. If you were Akio Toyoda, CEO of Toyota, would you want to take a step back in your machinery by using humans over robotic machines? Why or why not?
    The article makes a good point. We are trained to think that computers and robots are more efficient than humans. And although that might be true at times they don’t think like humans. I would consider putting people back into the work place if they came up with creative ways to be efficient.
    2. Do you believe that by using humans in the supply process will slow down the supply chain process at Toyota? Why or why not?
    I think they are smart enough to still maintain their quick production time. Taking to much longer will ruin their product flow.
    3. In a field such as the automotive industry this is a particularly odd move at first sight, especially in the eyes of competitors who are consistently raising the bar on their robotic processes. If Toyota becomes noticeably successful with their reduction in the usage of robotics, do you think others will follow them on this backtracking path? Why or why not?
    Yes I think once a company does something with proven success many seem to follow in the same path. There might be downsides and it might not work in every automotive manufacturer but if they found ways to reduce scrap others will soon copy.

  • 1. I have observed a good piece of equipment work well and support production in jobs that humans do not or can not do 24/7. But when the equipment is not good, it can slow down production and ruin your production numbers.

    2. Using humans could slow down production, because get tired and sick. There are times when humans can not get to work during a snow day and the robots stay at the plant 24/7.

    3. I think that robots have established there place in the production environment and will continue to grow. You will always need humans to fix the robots and perform tasks that require common sense decisions. My company uses vision inspection systems in many locations. The vision inspection systems are only as good as the camera and can not see small marks that the human eye can see. Human will never be fully replaced by robots.

  • 1. With all the issues and recalls that Toyota has had, this is a smart move on their behalf. Sometimes in order to advance, a step back is necessary.
    2. Slightly.

    3. If they are able to make better robotics that emulate human production that enable the manufacturing to be more efficient, they will once again be the leader in use of better robotics.

  • 1. With production needs as high as they are I can understand the utilization of robotics when it comes to the automobile industry. However, the use of robotics cannot catch everything a human can. Those robotics were made by people like you and I so there is always bound to be a flaw however the ability to catch the defect is much more difficult. By utilizing humans as oppose to robotics I believe the margin of error will decrease and allow for a more efficient product to be produced.
    2. Of course the supply chain will move much slower but like previous posts as some companies care more about quantity by replacing robotics with humans this approach is geared towards quality.
    3. I am sure other companies would follow in their footsteps. More so if this method proves to be just as profitable. Also the cost to keep the machinery working and maintained would be a great cut in expenses for these companies. So i see no reason as to why other companies wouldn’t follow.

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