Hugh Pickens DOT Com (2995471) writes "Bloomberg reports that humans are taking the place of machines in plants across Japan so workers can develop new skills and figure out ways to improve production lines and the car-building process. "We need to become more solid and get back to basics, to sharpen our manual skills and further develop them," says Mitsuru Kawai, a half century-long company veteran tapped by President Akio Toyoda to promote craftsmanship at Toyota's plants. "When I was a novice, experienced masters used to be called gods (Kami-sama in Japanese), and they could make anything."
According to Kawai, learning how to make car parts from scratch gives younger workers insights they otherwise wouldn't get from picking parts from bins and conveyor belts, or pressing buttons on machines. At about 100 manual-intensive workspaces introduced over the last three years across Toyota's factories in Japan, these lessons can then be applied to reprogram machines to cut down on waste and improve processes. In an area Kawai directly supervises at the forging division of Toyota's Honsha plant, workers twist, turn and hammer metal into crankshafts instead of using the typically automated process. Experiences there have led to innovations in reducing levels of scrap and shortening the production line and Kawai also credits manual labor for helping workers improve production of axle beams and cut the costs of making chassis parts. "We cannot simply depend on the machines that only repeat the same task over and over again," says Kawai. "To be the master of the machine, you have to have the knowledge and the skills to teach the machine.""