Last week, Drishti put on the webinar of a lifetime (at least, for people who geek out over manufacturing): It featured Dr. Jeffrey Liker, author of The Toyota Way, in conversation with Raja Shembekar, VP at DENSO, who lives and breathes the Toyota Production System out in the field every day.

The thesis of the webinar, moderated by Drishti CEO Prasad Akella, was to explore how AI extends the Toyota Production System. The actual conversation ranged much further, though — covering topics as surprising as the relative unimportance of kaizen; the social side of TPS; how Covid irrevocably changed the foundations of lean; and whether AI can improve your golf game. (Spoiler alert: if it could, I would probably be out on the links instead of sitting here writing this article.)

If you missed it, you can watch the whole session here. My picks for the top 5 exchanges are below.

#5: “Kaizen is no longer sufficient to be competitive.”

Raja Shembekar, DENSO: “What AI does, if done correctly, it really provides insight even to the person who’s leading the team into truly making the right decision, because they are not getting data that is skewed or biased.”


#4: “AI won’t make me a better golfer… and it won’t make you better at your craft.”

Dr. Liker: “After we get vaccinated and we get back to a more normal life … they’re going to find now a better balance, I think, between remote technologies and the Gemba than they had before. But if they simply continue to do what they’re doing with COVID, it would not be very effective.”

#3: “It’s not the Toyota way to replace thinking with technology”

Dr. Liker: “There’s a lot of valuable information, but it’s only useful from Toyota’s point of view, if it allows the workers and the work team, which includes a team leader and a group leader, to see what’s happening, identify gaps, and then they can respond.”

#2: “Humans are incredibly smart but slow… computers are incredibly fast but stupid.”

Shembekar: “AI is only as successful as the data set that you enter. If you have bad data set, the AI is not going to solve your problem. And so really the human element was really important, and so the way we approached it, to the first question, was we wanted to get the associates involved, to see how they see, how they view, this technology, because it was the first time where a technology was watching how they perform and provide them instant feedback. No time in the past was that even possible. This was the first time ever that your technology was allowing us to do that.”

#1: “First of all, Toyota is also aspiring to be like Toyota.”

Liker: “What Toyota does is they’re constantly practicing, learning, working on it. And it starts with this idea that it’s a socio-technical system, that they understand their own principles of things like continuous improvement and standard work and total productive maintenance and all the tools, but they see it as part of a whole system. That’s why they call it the Toyota Production System. And at the center of the system are people continually improving.”

There’s much more to see in this session! Watch the entire webinar here.