Toyota applies famed management system to agriculture
Toyota Motor Corp. is using its globally renowned manufacturing management system to improve farmers’ efficiency. Nabehachi Nousan Co., a farming corporation in Yatomi, Aichi Prefecture, has adopted a production management system devised by Toyota that allows it to monitor farming operations electronically. Nabehachi Nousan engages in agricultural work on behalf of small-scale farmers. Its tillage area of about 200 hectares comprises about 2,000 scattered lots. To address the challenge of raising efficiency, Nabehachi Nousan turned to Toyota’s system, which makes use of GPS.
The Toyota system draws up an optimal production plan on the basis of past data. For rice planting, it shows paddies in different colors, to reflect progress on smartphone and computer screens, making it possible to assign workers from paddies where work is progressing faster than planned to those lagging behind. The means farm management has become easier, with workers inputting data on their progress via smartphone. In addition, the Toyota system has automated the compilation of daily reports, relieving workers of this time-consuming chore.
By emulating the automaker’s “just in time” inventory strategy, the system has resulted in a 30 percent cut in rice seedling costs because Nabehachi Nousan no longer needs to set aside surplus seedlings. Production of surplus seedlings had been “taken for granted” among Japanese rice growers, said Nabehachi Nousan President Kiharu Yagi. But Toyota’s system has cut the scrap rate by 90 percent. In addition, its workers also receive instructions from Toyota employees about implementing kaizen (continuous improvement) in their daily operations.
“Workers have changed their attitudes toward their jobs,” Yagi said, noting that they are using accumulated data to improve farming operations. Given the rapid aging of Japan’s farmers, the delegation of arable land to agricultural corporations like Nabehachi Nousan is increasing, creating greater demand for efficient management. As of the end of July, the Toyota system had been adopted by 35 farming corporations in farming-intensive prefectures including Hokkaido, Fukushima and Nagano. Encouraged by the successful results, Toyota aims to release the system for general sale in three years’ time. “We’ll make a challenge jointly with farmers for realizing high-technology agriculture in future,” Shigeki Tomoyama, Toyota’s senior managing officer in charge of the system, said.