Facilities Conference Part 2, Final

February 7, 2008

Still on the plane from Texas to Kentucky. I’m sitting alone, which is a plus, since I doubt coach airline seats are made for people that are 6 feet tall. Pretty clear day today; we’re cruising at whatever altitude and I can clearly make out the ground, which is nice.

I didn’t really think much about this now, but the weather in San Antonio was incredible. Not too hot, not too cold. Just right.
It’s going to be cold in Kentucky… damnit.

Toyota North America Facilities Conference, Day 2
Toyota Motor Manufacturing Texas (TMMTX)
San Antonio, Texas

Well, this day started off pretty well. Same free, unhealthy breakfast, and then an interesting presentation or two about manufacturing plant issues.

In the breaks we’ve had during the conference, I’ve been able to think up some technical topics to write about in my blog, so look forward to that. I’m sure whoever reading this is thrilled.

After the initial presentations, it was a day of extremes for me. I saw, in the same day, the most incoherent presentation I’ve ever seen, as well as the longest presentation, possibly ever.

For the most incoherent, it requires a bit of background. The Japanese portion of the Toyota is referred to as TMC, or the Toyota Motor Corporation. Here in the United States, the company is split into two entities, TMS, or Toyota Motor Sales, and TEMA, or Toyota Engineering and Manufacturing North America (who I work for).

TMC had a presence at the conference, and two presentations were given. Again, TMC is Japanese, which means that the majority of the employees there do not have English as a first language. The presentation that I am going to focus on was the first presentation given.

First sign that something was awry: PowerPoint presentation was not in English
I do not know what kind of time frame was placed on this presentation, but it seems like a kind of cop-out to me. The vast majority of people in the audience were not Japanese speakers, which completely undermined the presentation. Even now, I have no clue whatsoever what the presentation was about. I seriously tried following the slides, but understanding something that you can’t read is rather difficult.

Second issue: The presenter was not an English Speaker, and the translator was not much better
My next point comes with the person giving the presentation. This TMC member did not speak English (at least, not well enough to present anything), so another TMC member was acting as translator. However, the translator’s English was… subpar to say the least. I know there were much better English/Japanese speakers present at the conference, so why this combination was chosen is beyond me.

The most plausible explanation I’ve heard is that it is a matter of honor for the TMC employees; that the presenter was the guest of the translator. I know there are massive cultural differences between the United States and Japan, but this seems like something that should’ve been planned much better. The presentation could have been the uber, end all plan for Toyota to demolish all competition, but I will never know, since I followed approximately none of it.

The other extreme presentation I heard was the longest presentation I believe I was ever in. If I had to guess, I’d say it lasted for about 4 hours, and that’s a very conservative estimate.

I’m not going to mention what it was about, since that’d probably be grounds for termination from TEMA. I believe that, like the TMC presentation, the length of this presentation was due in part to poor planning. It was originally supposed to take an hour, but it ran for around 4 times that. This kind of thing makes you really think of the necessity to thoroughly plan out an important presentation or meeting. Sure, everyone’s gone into a presentation completely unprepared and has just winged it; I know I have; and sometimes that goes well. However, sometimes it goes very, very badly. I think Anthony Bourdain said it the best on his show No Reservations when he said something to the effect of: “If you spin the wheel long enough, you eventually come up with double zero.” **

The day ended with some more informative presentations that I found interesting, such as one on Risk Management and insurance on some of Toyota’s plants. I guess you can never really get away from your roots.
At night, most of the facilities attendees went out on the town, or more explicitly, went to the San Antonio Riverwalk. The Riverwalk is a canal that runs through the city and has a variety of nightlife (read: bars) for people to kill some time. A group of us went out, got a good meal, and then call it a night.

Overall, the conference was a good time. I picked up a lot of information, and it was just a good experience for me. San Antonio seems like a nice enough city, although we weren’t there long enough for me to get a proper feeling for the place. Overall, I can honestly say that the people really made the conference what it is. While that may sound redundant, I just find it so interesting to see the characters that came from various locations across North America. That made it worth the trip alone.

Oh, and there were 19 audible cell phone rings today. Incredible.

** This quote may not be exactly correct, but I’m confidant that it is close enough for the point that was given. If I can find the original, I’ll change it

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