Fred Volf – November 2019

Fred Volf – President of Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada Inc.

Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada operates plants in Cambridge and Woodstock, employing approximately 8,000 team members across the two sites. TMMC produces 550,000-560,000 vehicles/year in Canada, running a two-shift model, Monday-Friday. Announcement of CUSMA, and ongoing negotiations, has pushed Toyota to move toward compliance, even without an agreement. This is likely to have a positive impact on the local auto sector. The trade agreement renegotiation highlighted the need to diversify markets and TMMC is exploring opportunities in other jurisdictions.

PARTNERSHIPS are required to succeed. As Fred identifies, TMMC has in-house engineers and leaders who dream about what they want to do, but in order to deploy these ideas, partnerships are essential. The partnerships Toyota has with technology companies are mutually beneficial: TMMC wins because they are deploying innovation, and the partnering company gains the ability to showcase their product in action, which generates more opportunities to sell that product. TMMC has strong partnerships with the University of Waterloo for engineering and research, and Conestoga College which feeds into skilled trades and technology training for team members on the floor. Fred also notes that TMMC is strongly aligned with suppliers so that the vehicle build is a total systems approach, and not a case of working in silos.

FRED BELIEVES SIMPLE IS BEST when it comes to deciding what technologies or processes to deploy and at what pace. The first step is to observe the process to truly understand what needs to be done. From there, the team asks: is a simple approach best? Do we have to go high tech? Instead of inventing new technology, Toyota’s preference is to find existing technology and apply it to their production system and lines in the plant. TMMC’s internal investment goes towards engineering time to find how to incorporate new technology in their systems. One of the core principles is to “make a safe environment for engineers to fail”. TMMC chooses solutions that can be copied and pasted throughout various applications, ultimately leading to benefits being seen over and over. The approach to innovation in Canada has led to a growing trend of outward flow of technology and process solutions to sister plants as well as back to Japan.

IDENTIFYING CHANGES that need to happen is part of TMMC’s core philosophy. They promote standardized work, but also promote that the workplace should be continuously evolving and changing to become more efficient. Efficiency means work becomes easier and safer and quality improves. TMMC runs programs to encourage a culture with a mindset of continuous improvement, such as: Kaizen Circles for team members, suggestion programs, and opportunities for employees to go “off [production] line” so they can actually implement and deploy some of their own ideas. TMMC promotes process ownership and looks to those who are integral to the process to find better ways of doing things. Fred’s theory is focused on engaging brains as much as bodies to move the company into the future.