Toyota Motor, whose production system is widely emulated around the auto industry, will soon begin installing technology in its plants that holds the promise of the holy grail of efficiency: automated kaizen.
Or at least almost automated.
The automaker has partnered with a U.S. startup to install thousands of units across its network of North American factories that will inconspicuously track workers' joint and eye motions as they move through their daily assembly processes.
The tablet-sized units made up of a camera, processor and data storage in a single box will analyze those movements -- without the need for supervisors watching or team members wearing tracking sensors -- and then use artificial intelligence to find improvements in efficiency and safety. They will also notify workers in real time when they have completed the task correctly.
The system, developed by Invisible AI — an Austin, Texas-based company with 17 full-time employees -- will be deployed first at Toyota's massive assembly plant in Princeton, Indiana, and then spread across the automaker's 14 other manufacturing plants in North America.
Toyota has been piloting the devices in smaller numbers at Princeton, but it is now moving to a much broader utilization of the technology.