Whether it’s automated driving, technology, robotics, AI, powering a car with fuel cells, or even Woven City, all of these things are built upon Toyota’s hardware infrastructure that involves a gradual shift to software. But it’s not like Toyota is just going to completely change here. It is changing of course, because the times require that there has to be change now.
But still, for the first time, I saw with my own eyes monozukuri (manufacturing) at its foundation, a foundation that should never change. While this part won’t change, other parts, such as the portion that sits above this foundation, or the part about becoming a mobility company, will change, but what’s inside won’t change, like having a black box that stays the same. I could see this strength today, especially in how maintenance workers talked about things, the genchi genbutsu method of making things, how the quotas were presented, and, in turn, how they motivate people. In fact, the experience seems to have even changed President Funahashi’s son (as he agreed to succeed his father as head of the company) —looking at all these things, a part of me thought that Toyota will indeed become a mobility company, but at the same time, it won’t completely become one either.
But that’s not what this is all about. Toyota is not just an automobile company. The company creates miracles in people, brings happiness to people and informs others of it, while making cars, and became one naturally through the making of cars. Just because it’s transforming into a mobility company to meet the needs of the times, it doesn’t mean that the monozukuri that runs underneath will change.
It seems that President Toyoda wants to talk to people at production sites most about Woven City. Before COVID-19, I watched a video of him talking passionately about it. While I’m sure some people in a production site somewhere get it, and some people in parts manufacturing also understand, and even the president grasps this intriguing structure, today I feel like I saw the flip side of this—parts that were hidden until now, perhaps parts people tried to forget, the parts that I thought would be ok to forget, even parts that I somehow thought would disappear [in the transition], but these parts won’t disappear—they are the basics.
Monozokuri, manufacturing, is about skills and technologies, and I don’t know if it’s a mechanism of the heart, but it is a strength that only Toyota has. In terms of percentages, I think Toyota has an incredibly large number of people with this kind of mindset, and that’s why I think it will succeed at whatever it does.