One of today’s top news is Toyota’s recall. While the focus in Canada is its scale and impact, Japanese internet news tell the inside. Toyota, like many other car companies today, uses common parts among different types of vehicles. This is a double-edged sword; it reduces development cost and time, and if the part is ill-designed, it affects all types of vehicles that use the parts, 2.77 millions in this case.
Let me talk about this from a different perspective; how do they manage car development in that way? Generally speaking, engineers do not communicate. When I worked for a famous Japanese company to develop endoscopic systems, the parts commonly used among different products are limited to very basic, off-the-shelf parts such as switches. The system to save digital endoscopic images was a good example. A team developed an image processing unit; it converts analog images to digital images to process it, and then converts it to analog images to output. Another team developed an image saving unit; it receives analog images from an image processing unit and converts it to digital images to save. If those development teams communicated, it wouldn’t have had to convert images three times which lowers the quality of image. If I understand correctly, in Toyota and other car companies, development teams communicate, or they have a system to share information among development teams. It may sound easy, but from my experiences in engineering jobs, I can tell that it is not as easy as it sounds for big organizations.
Now I imagine how they have established the system. Did anyone take initiative to communicate among development teams? Or did anyone establish a system to share information among different teams whether or not they are willing to communicate? In either case, I imagine, it was a paradigm shift. I want to assume they have a constructive corporate culture.