Earlier this week I was fortunate enough to meet John Rodgers—Jay, CEO of Local Motors. He founded and runs a really interesting and very unique car company that shares some similarities with Seven Cycles, mainly the manufacturing intent of building to order—not building in batches.
Jay was interested to visit Seven and see how we implement the Toyota Production System (TPS). I was equally—actually, probably more—interested in meeting with him and learning about how he is approaching TPS for his business. I also can’t wait to see his factory soon. As Jay said, it’s good to compare notes. Some of the main topics of which we agreed and focused, included:
:: Manufacturing in Massachusetts is really difficult; some would say, ‘stupid’. Too many surveys show that it is either the most, or in the top few percent of the most, expensive state to run a business.
:: Conversely, the value of being in a city—especially Boston—to find good candidates for employment. The farther you are located from a city, the more challenging it is to have an adequate pool from which to hire. Boston is particularly great because we have so many colleges and universities: Harvard, MIT, Sloan, Babson, Wentworth, MassArt—that’s an inside joke—and many others.
:: Seven’s low capital investment strategies for manufacturing have worked well. Jay was surprised at how much we are able accomplish with such frugal capital investment. All while maintaining the tightest tolerances in the industry and ensuring very flexible tooling design.
:: Employee treatment in a TPS environment and the differences in how Seven works with employees. We discussed some examples of how we differ, including:
>> Seven employs extreme flex time for production people; they can work whenever they want; ride in the middle of the day or just take care of their lives.
>> Seven provides and requires extensive cross training. For example, we have four basic categories of production job and each person in the four roles can perform the entire job, not just elements of each role. Additionally, I estimate that more than 50% of our employees can do more than one of these roles. About 20% can perform three of the four roles.
Jay said in his blog, among other thoughts:
“Seven… has had to improvise by modifying the Toyota Production System. The result, however, is a compelling vision of small volume manufacturing.”
Jay considered it a “phenomenal day” and I agree. It was exciting to hear that someone else locally is working through the same kind of challenges that consume Seven’s time. It was great to meet someone that has a similar vision for manufacturing. And is actually doing it! I can’t wait to visit his factory. I’m certain it will be another phenomenal day.