Human-powered automation

Toyota has a long history of leading by example when it comes to manufacturing.  They’ve championed lean principles in manufacturing for a long time with great success and are still making waves today.

I’m sure you’ve heard all the fuss of Tesla’s factories and how they leverage robotics to replace humans when building their cars.  What you may not have heard is that Tesla continues to fall down the rankings of Consumer Reports.  Their build quality comes under fire A LOT.

Toyota on the other hand is popularizing a different concept in manufacturing – human-powered automation.

Instead of robots replacing people, they focus on enhancing their capabilities.  Here’s a quote from a Fast Company article to give you a better idea why they think this is a good idea.

“Machines are good for repetitive things,” James continued, “but they can’t improve their own efficiency or the quality of their work. Only people can.”

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He added that Toyota has conducted internal studies comparing the time it took people and machines to assemble a car; over and over, human labor won.

Nowadays, Toyota is advocating more than ever for keeping people at the controls of the robots and thus far, this seems to be paying off.  How do I know?  Well, the same Consumer Reports that finds Tesla near the bottom finds Toyota and Lexus (also Toyota) at the top.

The lesson here?  Embrace what technology has to offer, but strike the right balance of people and tech.  Your firm’s capabilities should be enhanced by technology, not replaced by it.

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