Toyota Kata is a buzzword that you often hear in manufacturing. It can be tied to lean initiatives, continuous improvement, company culture and more – the list goes on and on.

Kata is any type of structured form, routine, pattern or behavior that becomes second nature through practice. It has been studied, observed and implemented at thousands of companies around the world. But at the center of Toyota Kata’s success is not the employment of lean processes – it’s the people and company culture that make it work.

“At the core it is about respect for people and continuous improvement, and this has not changed since the company’s founding,” said authors Jeffrey Liker and Michael Hoseus in Toyota Culture: The Heart and Soul of the Toyota Way.

Navistar’s manufacturing team is striving to use the Toyota Kata way to build strong teams, improve operations and efficiently deliver high-quality trucks to our customers.

“Toyota lets people into their plants to observe and review their processes because the secret to their success is employee mindset – and you can’t see that,” said Mark Hernandez, senior vice president, Global Manufacturing. “At Navistar, we have implemented several Toyota Production System processes over the years as best practice, but now we are working towards building a manufacturing culture that empowers our people.”

“The end goal is to have people on the floor actively engaged in daily problem solving,” he added.

Rodney Tharp, Tulsa Bus Plant manager, is working under the Toyota Kata mindset. He starts and ends each day on the plant floor with the goal of bringing a passion and energy to the floor that empowers people to celebrate their successes, solve the challenges in front of them or raise their hands to ask for help if there is an issue.

“If I walk out on the floor and see teams collaborating and working together to identify and solve issues with no involvement from me, then I’ve successfully done my job,” said Rodney.

“This collaboration starts with small steps such as celebrating successes with a simple thank you from a supervisor or in Tulsa we have also reengaged the activity committee to develop new ways of connecting our employees,” he added.

Mark also noted, “Kiichiro Toyoda, Toyota Motor Company founder, said ‘Each person fulfilling his or her duties to the utmost can generate great power when gathered together, and a chain of such power can generate a ring of power.’ This is the power that Navistar’s manufacturing is striving for.”