Lean Leadership and the “Secret Sauce”: Ray Tanguay of TMMC and Toyota Canada Inc.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Ray Tanguay speaks during the AME 2013 Excellence Inside International Conference in Toronto.

Expand your thinking about how lean leadership and concepts can transform organizations and processes, counseled Ray Tanguay in his keynote address during the recent AME annual conference in Toronto. Tanguay is chairman of TMMC (Toyota Motor Manufacturing Canada, Inc.) and Toyota Canada Inc. In Japan, he has contributed to further globalization of Toyota Motor Corporation by creating a clear vision within a strategic framework.

“Kaizen isn’t about spending money. It’s about making things better,” said Tanguay. He noted that lean improvements at a New York soup kitchen helped the facility reduce wait times and optimize its dining room. In New Orleans, lean practitioners cut the average time for home rebuilding projects from 116 days to 48 days and reduced related costs. The ER at St. Joseph Hospital in Hamilton, AB, boosted output by 28 percent with no capital investment, thanks to lean-inspired changes.

Tanguay emphasized the importance of people in lean operations. The Toyota Cambridge, ON, facility employs several thousand people and it has more than 1,700 robots. A Corolla is manufactured every 55 seconds at the plant. Tanguay commented, “What makes quality is people and respect for people.”

A “transformation mindset” contributes to continuing success in TMMC operations. This willingness to meet challenges served TMMC well during its launch of the first Lexus plant outside Japan, according to Tanguay.

Pay Attention to People and Process

The TMMC executive shared ingredients for a “secret sauce.” Tanguay said the power of observation and going back to basics are essentials. “If you’re going to improve your process, you’d better pay attention to it and nurture it and fertilize it,” said Tanguay.

Analyze and visualize any abnormalities in real-time, advised Tanguay, citing a floor management development system (FMDS). “In God we trust; all others must bring data,” he said. “Inspect what you expect and people will respect what you expect.”

Understanding is another critical element in Tanguy’s “sauce.” The same recipe can yield different results (in stamping, for example), he commented. Tanguay suggested understanding the “5 Whys” and revealing root causes, and also seeking out related necessary conditions.

Collaboration — team member engagement — also supports effective processes. Tanguay said kaizen circles, commitment to safety and team member innovation reflect such involvement. “In Toyota, every team member does at least two kaizen circles a year,” he said. Engagement extends to suppliers and customers in addition to employees.

Effective execution is needed. A study showed that 90 percent of organizations are unable to implement their own strategies, said Tanguay. “Schools don’t teach students to make changes,” he added.

“Leadership is a relationship between a leader and those who choose to follow,” said Tanguay. “Teach people to commit to an ideal, not a plan.” Leaders are good teachers, and more important, good salesmen, he commented.

Lea Tonkin, president of Lea Tonkin Communications in Woodstock, IL, is the former editor in chief of Target and Target Online.