The Global Manufacturer

A Lesson in Respect

Tetsuro "Ted" Toyoda is not a dynamic public speaker, but the simple message the president of Toyota Industries Corp. (TICO) delivered to company associates at the firm's Columbus, Ind. plant is worth noting and remembering.

Toyoda, the grand-nephew of Toyota founder Sakichi Toyoda, was in Indiana to help celebrate 20 years of manufacturing lift trucks at the Columbus plant. Nearly 700 workers were on hand as Toyoda and other Toyota officials celebrated both the anniversary and the launch of a new line of 8-Series 4-wheel AC electric lift trucks, which the company says is aimed at the fastest growing segment of the lift truck market.

Toyoda reminded the assembly that Toyota is guided by "five basic business philosophies: respect for the law, respect for others, respect for the natural environment, respect for customers and respect for employees." While noting that "times have changed and therefore we must change our mindset," Toyoda said the "five basic business philosophies have not changed." And, he added, "it is you - our valued associates - who provide the ongoing daily efforts to support these basic philosophies."

Toyoda asked employees to "continue to contribute your best to the company. And please continue to come forward with initiatives and kaizen suggestions to help the growth and development of Toyota's lift truck business."

I couldn't help wondering how many labor confrontations could be avoided in the manufacturing sector if both management and labor practiced respect for each other. Moreover, respect is at the heart of the continuous improvement philosophy. After all, why ask people for their improvement ideas if you don't respect them in the first place?

Toyota has seen its share of problems over the past year with automotive recalls, but it's hard not to admire the company for its operating philosophies and to see why they are helping Toyota rebound from this damaging episode.

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