Commemorative Speech by Dr. Shoichiro Toyoda, Honorary Chairman of Toyota Motor Corp., on the occasion of award of honorary doctorate by the Asian Institute of Technology

You may find this speach given by Shoichiro Toyoda on August 7, 2003 to be of interest as he discusses the importance of making things (manufacturing).
Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Mister President, Excellencies, AIT Trustees, Faculty members, distinguished guests, members of the 98th graduating class, Alumni, Ladies and Gentlemen

Congratulations to each of the graduates and good luck to you as you embark on new endeavors with your hard gained intellectual assets.
I am Shoichiro Toyoda of Toyota Motor Corporation. It is indeed a great honor and privilege for me to receive your honorary doctorate degree from the Asian Institute of Technology of world renown.

On this very honorable occasion, I would like to tell you something about my long-held views on the topic of “making things and developing human capability.”

First, please allow me to say a few words about our Toyota Motor Corporation and the Toyota Group of companies. The Toyota Group was originated as a business called Toyota Industries Corporation, which was founded by Sakichi Toyoda, my grandfather. Subsequently, Kiichiro Toyoda, my father, who came to recognize the need to start and grow an automotive industry in Japan, established Toyota Motor Corporation. And at present, some sixty-six years after that historic start, working closely with its group of companies, Toyota ranks the third among the world’s auto manufacturers.

About nine years ago, the thirteen companies in the Toyota Group jointly built and opened the “Commemorative Museum of Industry and Technology.” This facility came about as a culmination of our strong desire to provide the general public with a space where they can “get in touch with, be acquainted with, and explore Toyota’s mind and heart for making things”. They can also view firsthand changes and advances in industry and technology, primarily in the textile-machinery and automotive sectors where our group has long been involved. When you have a chance to visit Japan and the city of Nagoya, I hope you would find time to visit our museum.

I have been told that Thailand is also very active in making the entire nation recognize the importance of “making things” and in improving levels of the nation’s capability for “making things,” through various grass-roots plans and programs. Her Majesty Queen Sirikit established the Support foundation in 1976 to support activities for making things.

In 1979, the Support Training Center for Traditional Crafts was opened at Chitralada Palace and many other similar establishments have followed, as I’ve been told. More recently, the Thai government has started a nation-wide program for the “One Village, One Product” movement, and I believe it is a very good and interesting scheme. If I can find time, I want to visit such training centers and observe firsthand your broad efforts to elevate your nation’s mind and skill for making things.

We at Toyota have long cherished the idea that “making things” requires “developing human capability.” Since it takes human beings to make things, naturally you would have to build human capability before you’d start making products. I believe that the same thing applies also to building services, building society, and building nations.

I have long been convinced that the capability for making things is the motivating force for the development of industry, the economy, and technology, and constitutes the foundation for any nation’s growth. I can cite three reasons why it is important for us to focus on making things.

First, building of products is a great source of added value for the economy and society. The bulk of human endeavors in economic fields are revolving around useful added values, primarily in the form of making things.

Second, capability for making things induces and supports technological progress. Today, many Japanese argue for devoting ever more efforts to developing sophisticated kinds of fundamental technology. In many instances, however, this would tend to generate disregard and inattention toward the capability for making things, namely, development engineering and manufacturing technology. And I personally have grave concerns about this trend.

To begin with, technology cannot advance on a broad scale if you isolate basic technology from applied technology. These two aspects of technology must be present to work with each other, to stimulate each other, and to be fused into amalgam on occasions, while exchanging their respective needs and seeds between them, for ultimate advancement in both.

Third, making things is important because it brings excitement and joy to the people involved. Human beings are instinctively capable of perceiving beauty in products of high quality and high performance. You must not forget that the act of making things brings joy to your heart and such an act is enjoyable in itself. To exercise your mind, exert your limbs, and spend your time, all for the purpose of making new things, represent a process that you can find gratifying; and when finally the product is complete at the end of your mental and physical exercise, you will be naturally filled with a sense of joy and fulfillment.

Additionally, I would like to say that building products does build people, or help people grow. The issue we have to deal with is how to develop good people for making good products. We have to prepare people and help people develop themselves through the accumulation of experience by performing round and round of work day after day. In other words, we are building human beings by going through the process of building products; and skilful people thus developed can then rise up to yet greater product-building challenges. This is a continuous process of building human capability through OJT, or on-the-job training.

What is important here is the fact that building human beings means more than just letting them acquire necessary skills, know-how, or techniques.

When we say we “build people” at Toyota, it doesn’t just mean that we have people skillful enough to build high-quality products on a timely basis. It also means that our people will have a strong sense of responsibility so that they abide by rules for safety and honor agreements made among team members for joint work; and it also means that every member of the Toyota organization is strongly motivated to improve oneself to aspire for ever higher skill levels.

Let me cite an example: We at Toyota have always been very attentive to what we call “Four S’s.” The four S’s here stand for sifting, sorting, and spick and span. Thorough attention to them helps us identify glitches on shop floors and visualize troubles caused by overburdening, non-value-adding activity and unevenness.

We have made a full use of ideas and experiences of our people directly engaged in production so that we can eliminate problems arising out of disregard of the 4-S’s in every part of our manufacturing operations; and as a result, we have been able to build and refine the Toyota Production System, including the “just-in-time” system which many of you may be familiar with. This type of down-to-earth approaches in manufacturing have helped us constantly improve our sensitivity to such factors as safety, quality, efficiency, and costs, and are inherited from generation to generation as the DNA, as it were, of Toyota.

Global competition is growing increasingly fierce, and we are right in the middle of it. For Toyota to maintain and improve its competitive capability as a business entity, it is crucially important that we find suitable ways to pass on our “management philosophy” firmly rooted in the idea of making things, to later generations of Toyota workers and also to share our philosophy with Toyota’s local members outside Japan.

As part of the source of Toyota’s competitiveness, we have selected and arranged sets of fundamental beliefs and approaches. In other words, sets of values and codes of conduct that will have to be shared by all members of Global Toyota, in the form of the “Toyota Way” for world-wide application.

Finally, allow me to add a few words about the “2005 World Exposition, Aichi, Japan,” to be held near the city of Nagoya from March 25 to September 25, 2005. I am serving as chairman of the Exposition Association and I am grateful for Thailand’s prompt decision to have its exhibits at the Exposition. By the end of July, we had a total of 115 countries and international organizations indicating their intentions to participate. This Exposition is centered around the theme, “Nature’s Wisdom”, and is planned to explore the relationship between Nature and human beings in the 21st century and to submit workable ideas for better linkages with Nature.

Our activities to make things, on which I spent some time in my speech today, will have to change so that they can be symbiotic with the natural environment, and their attendant impacts on Nature can be tolerably small. In this sense, the idea of making things has a great deal to do with the forthcoming Exposition, which is intended to serve as a broadcasting source of ideas on the direction of solutions to many grave problems facing humankind in the 21st century, such as energy and environment. The Expo will, I’m sure, also point the way for us on how to handle technology and how to make things in the years to come.

I would very much like to produce this Expo 2005, the first one to be held in this century, to be a forum that is enjoyable, full of dreams, and be memorable. In closing, let me say that I would be very happy to have many of you, who are here with us today, come to visit us at the Exposition near Nagoya in 2005.

Thank you, again, for this great honor, and I wish the Asian Institute of Technology the best of luck and good fortune in the future.

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