Trinity grad students get first-hand look at truck maker’s “just in time” business practice
by Susie P. Gonzalez
By the time a student reaches graduate school, field trips might seem irrelevant. But Amy Foshee Holmes, accounting professor at Trinity University, jumped at the chance for her graduate-level accounting class to join the San Antonio CPA Society to tour the Toyota plant in south Bexar County.
The students donned hard hats and left cell phones behind to ride a tram through the factory to see the plastics department, the trim line, and the final line where vehicles literally roll off the line. Along the way, a Toyota Texas tour guide explained how inventory is managed, how employees are nurtured, and how robots are incorporated into the assembly process.
Toyota embraces a “lean process” that features a “just in time” inventory with frequent deliveries by 21 suppliers of parts and equipment to minimize storage and maximize floor space for truck production.
Holmes said it was good for the students to be able to visualize what a “lean process” is since the concept is vital to the practice of accounting, especially in regard to cost and operations. Students in her Advanced Managerial Accounting class also learned about nonfinancial measures, including sustainability, during the semester.
“It was good to witness a great company like Toyota and to see its efficiency and production and how employees are treated as a group,” said Chuck Kappmeyer ’16, ’17, who expects to receive his master’s in accounting in May. He has received an employment offer from the Deloitte accounting office in Houston and said what he observed during the tour would be helpful in the business world.
Dennis Li ’17, a master’s in accounting student from Guangzhou, China, who also expects to graduate in May, said he was struck by the employment practices that apply to truck bodies mounted to rolling devices. “The workers have to be on top of things because the line doesn’t stop,” Li said. “They put in an intense workload and have to be precise. Time management is keenly important.”
Jorge Colazo, chair of the Department of Finance and Decision Sciences in Trinity’s School of Business, also visited with the class to share his experience of the Toyota factory, based on his position from 1994 to 2002 as production and maintenance manager of the Toyota plant in Argentina.
“When you tour a (truck) plant, it can be overwhelming,” he said. “There’s lots going on.”
Colazo honed in on the Toyota pillar of jidoka, a Japanese philosophy that embraces quality in production and automatically stops work if a problem occurs. “It gives workers the autonomy, if they detect a defect, to stop the process so as not to pass defective products downstream.” This pillar of Toyota is coupled with the “just in time” concept of not having waste, which is understood as “anything that doesn't add value in the eyes of the customer. It could be a waste of inventory, waste of movement, waste of overproduction,” Colazo said, explaining that is why Toyota works with a small inventory and has low capital needs.
The Toyota of Texas plant was announced in 2003. The first Tundra rolled off the line in November 2006, and the first Tacoma was produced in August 2010.
Susie P. Gonzalez, senior manager of public relations, can be reached at susie.gonzalez [at] trinity.edu or @susiegonz.