The workplace of Nippondenso Manufacturing, USA, Inc. is a hybrid-not American, but not Japanese, either, says Stan Tooley, vice president of human resources and administration. Quality, though, is extremely high. In 1991, when the company earned its Best Plants award, customer defects ran just 1.2 parts per million. The line inspection defect rate was 0.036 percent and the scrap rate a mere 0.16 percent.
Nippondenso views even one failure critically. "All defects found by a customer are evaluated by a team from manufacturing, engineering, and quality assurance," says Art Learmonth, vice president of manufacturing.
Once root causes of problems have been identified, yoko-nirami comes into play. It is a process for broadening the preventive measures to catch similar potential for defects. Says Learmonth, "Management steps back from the problem, opens up its vision, and tries to see where else the solution could be applied."
Then, twice a month, a meeting is convened with senior management to critique the corrective actions and to assure that nothing is overlooked.
While Nippondenso considers its people part of the company, U.S. social customs and the risks of litigation are factors that prevent the company from guaranteeing lifetime employment. Even so, Tooley says he can't conceive of ever laying off anybody. "We don't even have a policy addressing the issue."
Extensive training and education further sharpen customer response. In the second quarter of 1991, for example, the 1,100 employees received 8,000 hours of training in management, quality, safety, computers, and other technical topics.