Hajime Ohba (also spelled Hajime Oba) was General Manager of Toyota Supplier Support Center (TSSC) in the mid-1990’s.
Here is a famous story about Ohba in the Wall Street Journal and his emphasis on making small, cost effective improvements, not investing in large capital expenses.
Armed with a $12 dryer from a discount store, Mr. Oba proved to engineers from Michigan’s Summit Polymers Inc. that their $280,000 investment in sleek robots and a paint oven to bake the dashboard vents they produce actually was undermining quality and pushing up costs. The fancy equipment took up to 90 minutes to dry the paint and in the bargain caused quality flaws because parts gathered dust as they crept along a convey or.
Mr. Oba’s hair dryer did the job in less than three minutes. Chastened, Summit’s engineers replaced their paint system with some $150 spray guns and a few light bulbs for drying and integrated the painting into the final assembly process. Along with some other changes inspired by Mr. Oba’s visits, family-owned Summit cut its defect rate to less than 60 per million parts from 3,000 per million in the mid-1990s.
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