A Harsh Ride for Employees

Toyota employees complete stage four of long term vehicle endurance tests to experience first hand the rigours of real-world motoring.


he 5 continents drive project undertaken by Toyota is proving to be an eye-opener for employees working in various positions in the

company, who were enrolled in long term tests of vehicles in difficult, real-world driving environments. After completing phases in Australia,

North & South America and Europe, the project is just completing its current phase in Africa before moving onto the final continent of Asia.

GENCHI GENBUTSU In the genchi genbutsu project (going to the source to obtain facts), Toyota staff from Japan team up with local affiliates, take the wheels of the cars themselves and drive on the roads used daily by their customers. By participating in the project, team members increase their knowledge of the world’s roads, listen to customer feedback, encounter global cultures first-hand and together find answers to numerous problems and challenges. Such experiences enable them to hone their intuition for making better cars in a manner that can’t be replicated at a desk or on test tracks, and thereby contribute to the development of human resources. The Africa stage of the project involved 76 people covering over 10000 kilometers

20 /// Automotive Test & Validation Vol 2 No. 1

❱ ❱ Toyota embarks on Genchi Genbutsu to bring employees to the source of their customers’ driving challenges INSET: Employees from all professions are driving in the world’s toughest environments to understand real world challenges

over a period of two months. The team drove across Africa’s diverse and wide- ranging roads, where they experienced the harsh conditions in which vehicles were used and listened to direct feedback from African customers. Driving across a variety of harsh,

unpaved roads beset by severe unevenness, sharp stones, corrugated road surfaces and desert, the team was made to recognise the value of reliability, durability and comfort. Even on paved surfaces, Africa presented a unique road environment: long straights, frequent animal crossings, large potholes that appear out of nowhere, speed bumps and being overtaken by convoys of heavy, overloaded trucks. These circumstances emphasised the importance of braking performance and high-speed stability.

FULL TEAM INVOLVEMENT When the project was first launched in Australia in 2014, the core members of the team were from the company’s technology divisions but as the project continued, members from a variety of other divisions including sales, purchasing, human resources and accounting have also taken part. An increasing number of younger employees have participated as well. According to Toyota’s president, Akio Toyoda, there is a strong sense that the

circle of people who are undertaking the task of making better cars has now expanded across boundaries to include those from a wide range of divisions, positions, roles and nationalities. One employee commented, “The

project has taught me that there is a gap between what I feel and what our customers feel. it has made me more attentive to customer feedback and re- examine what they have to say in a more impartial manner.” Akio Toyoda recalls his own experiences of the challenge having got stuck in the middle of the desert on numerous occasions, unable to move forward or backwards. In such diverse environments, car

breakdowns pose unique challenges, possibly being life-or-death situations. Toyoda believes that such experiences demonstrate the importance of the jobs the employees have in creating cars that are not just a convenient means of transport but something that people rely on for their lives. “No matter if you are the president

or a new recruit, whether you are an engineer, work on the shop floor or in administration, there are no boundaries and the experiences you’ve had in the challenge will help us all to create better cars,” he concludes.

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