On my first study mission to Japan in February 1981, I visited the American Embassy in Tokyo and met with the information officer. His job was to study the best Japanese technologies and to have that information translated to English to help American companies stay abreast of what was happening in Japan. I was furious at him to have not discovered what Toyota was doing to go from producers of "junk" to world class. His budget, millions of dollars, to spend on translations was hundreds times greater than mine.
Somehow, I was surely blessed to have met Dr. Shigeo Shingo, Mr. Taiichi Ohno, Dr. Ryuji Fukuda, Seiichi Nakajima, Dr. Yoji Akao, Hiroyuki Hirano, Shigehiro Nakamura, Bunji To-zawa, Iwao Kobayashi, Kenichi Sekine and others who were willing to share their information with Americans and allowed me to publish their Japanese books in English.
It shortly became obvious to me from my frequent visits to Japan, 63 as of this date, that the Toyota Production System (TPS) was the most important and the most valuable to study. At first, when I met Mr. Taiichi Ohno, vice-president of manufacturing at Toyota, I asked him to let me have things in writing about TPS. He said, "Norman, we don't have things written down, for it is always changing." I felt that he was just reluctant to share the information that was making Toyota so successful. But, I was perseverant. I wouldn't stop searching for information to share with companies in the West. I magically found Dr. Shingo, co-creator with Ohno of TPS, and he graciously allowed me to publish all of his books in English. After a few years Mr. Ohno also gave me permission to publish also his books in English.
But, why wouldn't GM and Ford do the same? Why wouldn't they locate, translate and publish everything available on Toyota? It is still a mystery to me. In 1984, Toyota decided to open a joint venture plant with GM, NUMMI, to share their production system with GM. Virtually, all of Toyota's secrets were now available to GM. Why didn't GM study carefully the JIT/LEAN concepts and apply them? And through the books I subsequently published, when I owned Productivity Press, most of what Toyota was doing was available to everyone.
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