Client Name: Toyota
Toyota invest in 1Tech’s process engineering expertise
Toyota select 1Tech to champion best practice
This case study describes how one of the world’s most innovative and successful companies selected 1Tech to improve and integrate its IT processes and to transfer skills to Toyota’s information systems community.
Toyota have developed a collection of processes and standards for use by their Information Systems department known as the Information Systems Methodology (ISM) and, within it, a further set of processes known as the Information Systems Project Methodology (ISPM) to manage both the software development lifecycle and the business processes which govern it. They have also chosen to implement an Agile methodology for software development and integration projects.
At Toyota, all employees have two roles: their own job and quality assurance.
On each vehicle production line, a cord, known as the Andon cord, runs along the length of the line. If a line worker notices anything unusual, such as a defect, they pull this cord and the line stops. The team then concentrates all of their effort on correcting the defect before the line starts up again.
Toyota invented the concept of Just in Time in 1938 (often described as ‘Just in time, stop the line’). The objective was not simply to reduce inventory, as is often thought, but to avoid building up too much stock with defects which would have to be written off or corrected.
Just in Time and this culture of quality evolved into the Toyota Production System and its more generic equivalent, Lean Manufacturing, which is the benchmark for manufacturing organisations across the globe.
Toyota introduced Total Quality Management (TQM) as long ago as 1961 and was the first to introduce ‘Kaizen’ (lit. ‘improvement’) to represent the concept of continuous improvement.
These concepts and the associated culture are practiced in every aspect of Toyota’s operations, including information systems.
Toyota (GB) PLC is part of Toyota Motor Corporation the world’s seventh largest company and the second largest global car manufacturer. Importer and distributor for Toyota and Lexus vehicles in the UK, the company is responsible for sales, marketing, after sales and customer relations across its entire UK network of 200 Toyota Centres. 1Tech has been working with Toyota GB plc for a number of years on Information Systems solutions that span the company’s business applications portfolio.
- Toyota’s Information Systems Methodology (ISM) and Information Systems Project Methodology (ISPM) embody Toyota principles but they have not been institutionalised to the same degree as processes used in other parts of the business.
- In 2007, they introduced the IBM Rational Unified Process (RUP) to manage Business and Software Architecture and application development. RUP in fact resembles the Toyota Production System in many ways, with its focus on quality and team interaction and its architecture-centric approach.
- Toyota work closely with IBM Global Services to ensure that the Kaizen principle of continuous improvement is applied to the management of its information systems. The implementation of Agile methods in any organisation is challenging and the time before it begins to produce positive results varies significantly, but is frequently measured in years rather than months. Working with IBM, Toyota tailored Agile to suit the environment (a prerequisite of any Agile adoption programme), but were having difficulties in institutionalising the process due to limited experience and skills.
- The implementation of Agile was further complicated by the need for it to operate within the boundaries of ISM and ISPM which in effect provided the interface to Toyota methods and the organisation in general.
- Part of Toyota’s philosophy is the concept of the ‘Extended Enterprise’ wherein they develop long term relationships with suppliers specifically targeted at mutual innovation. Whereas this was an integral part of all business and manufacturing operations, it was immature within information systems. This was a weakness, given a policy that it is better to buy something of proven quality than to risk developing something new.
- Toyota’s first production pilot of Agile was the new Vehicle Management System which 1Tech had been engaged to implement some 12 months into the project (See Case Study Toyota decides to replace business-critical systems with open source business applications). At the time of 1Tech’s engagement the project was well behind schedule and over budget.
- 1Tech's own Open Source Integration Methodology (1TechOSIM) is based on Agile methods and it soon became clear to Toyota that compared to their own implementation, the method was mature and was additionally backed up by the skills of the 1Tech team. 1Tech were therefore asked to extend their engagement to mentor and train Toyota staff in the efficient use of Agile.
- 1Tech identified the lack of methods to manage IS supplier engagement and the introduction of third party components and proposed the adoption of the Evolutionary Process for Integrating COTS-based Systems (EPIC), a methodology defined by the Software Engineering Institute and generally considered to represent best practice.
- Following a review of the current status of the ISM and ISPM methodologies with the resident IBM Global Services team, 1Tech were asked to integrate all of the information systems processes so that boundaries and interfaces were clearly defined and the whole could operate as a single, seamless entity, accessible to all information systems personnel.
- 1Tech worked with project and programme management to reconstruct the critical vehicle management system project, replacing the existing function-driven approach with one that was risk driven and architecture-centric according to Agile principles.
- This resulted in the identification of elements which represented the highest risk and focused on the need to eliminate these risks early so that the effects they might have on project timescales could be mitigated.
- The number of elements with high architectural risk was significant due to the number of interfaces to legacy systems which were needed. The development of instances of each commenced immediately and the risks were either eliminated or, where major problems occurred, the need to focus and reschedule effort on their resolution was identified.
- 1Tech analysed the use of the four information systems methodologies (ISM, IDSPM, RUP and EPIC) and produced a process architecture which integrated them into effectively a single process.
- The integrated processes, along with guidelines, templates and other supporting materials, were defined and published by 1Tech as a web site for Toyota’s intranet using IBM Rational Method Composer, allowing each member of the information systems community, whether acting in a project, support or management role, to instantly see how they were expected to interact with their colleagues and the processes they should follow.
- 1Tech developed custom training material and trained all information systems staff, including senior management, via modular courses aimed at transferring skills appropriate to the needs of each individual. This was supplemented by ‘on-the-job’ coaching, a technique which is itself a core Toyota philosophy.
- Training customisation and delivery, and process analysis, tailoring and integration, were completed within 3 months.
Implementing a major new approach, such as an Agile project delivery methodology, is a huge task for any organisation and requires a properly managed change programme in its own right. Integrating it with other processes at the same time magnifies the risk and the associated effort. By harnessing 1Tech’s extensive experience in these areas and their ability to produce pragmatic solutions, Toyota were able to radically reduce the time needed to realise benefits, whilst improving staff motivation by giving team members more control over and insight into the tasks for which they were responsible.