Nissan Karate Kids

Nissan vehicles are created in unique and secret ways. But there is a place where Nissan demonstrates its manufacturing techniques to the world, somewhere not so removed from a karate dojo.

""Nissan Quality was not built in a day." So reads the sign at Nissan's Oppama Plant. This is the "karate dojo," the Global Training Center. In the "school" are gathered elite assistant instructors trainees from all the Nissan production sites around the world - Malaysia, the U.S., Mexico and more. They undergo training with the Global Master Trainers to acquire the highest level of technique and praxis.

The assistant instructors then return to their locales as Master Trainers, spreading the "karate" methodologies, know-how and mentality yet further to the staff working at each site where Nissan vehicles are manufactured.

There are currently over thirty such facilities, over seventy percent of which are overseas. With such diversity and distance, a manual for all the manufacturing processes cannot be enough to maintain and advance quality. Creating human resources that can utilize site facilities and methodologies accurately is vital, but it's also the aim of the GTC to cultivate international staff to work autonomously.

At the Global Training Center (GTC), Supervisors from Nissan production sites all over the world learn from Global Master Trainers. After completing their training, the Supervisors return to their local production sites fully qualified as Master Trainers to instruct their plant staff in correct manufacturing processes.

A dojo for learning teaching and training

Take a peek into the dojo. What's happening right now is a training exercise for bolt-tightening assembly processes. At GTC, the trainees learn techniques by both instructional materials and hands-on lessons, and also learn how then to teach this after they return to their own sites.

For example, when it comes to a bolt, if things are not tightly and properly put into their holes, bolts come loose and may fall out. The trainees need to study the techniques that ensure these elementary mistakes never occur.

But practice makes perfect. The trainees keep rehearsing and polishing their speed and technique. Novices who make ten errors with the bolts will whittle that down to zero by the time they've finished. The hands-on style and visual learning materials also mean there are no language issues between the trainees and instructors.

Training can last from two weeks to three months, and when they've completed it they can take their new know-how back to their areas as qualified Master Trainers.

But there's still the final test. Between three and six months after graduation, the local disciples under the wing of the new Master Trainers have to show what they have learned - and thus, if the instructors' teaching is also up to scratch. The training plans made by the new Master Trainers on the last day of their GTC training are also implemented at each site and then assessed.

GTC graduates hail from over 50 Nissan bases around the world, including Malaysia, the U.S. and Mexico. Mastering correct procedures and manufacturing skills, they form the human resources essential for creating global quality.

Think right to make it right

Being a Master Trainer is a privilege awarded only to a few. They are required to become proficient not just in technique. They need also to procure the right mentality. This is the DNA of Nissan's creativity: organization, order, purity, cleanliness, and discipline.

At the start and end of GTC training all participants must formally thank and congratulate each other on their work. And this ethos and way of thinking also transfers to the foundations of each production site around the world. The monozukuri manufacturing techniques may well be "made in Japan" - but Nissan is a wholly united, global operation.

Since GTC opened its dojo doors in 2005, all its methods have always been working towards improving manufacturing quality and helping production bases in Russia, China, India and more develop their resources to the full. Its training and drills are diverse, including whack-the-mole-style games, measuring walking times and practicing correct left-hand tactility.

The GTC also holds annual global tournaments where 300 of the best trainees from plants around the world gather to display their skills. The contenders are selected from regional heats to come to Oppama and engage in a friendly competition, all in the name of exhibiting just how high the quality bar has been raised.

Today a newly appointed Master Trainer is graduating from the GTC dojo, heading out to other regions to pass on the teachings to the teams at each plant. And these instructors themselves keep on advancing their own abilities. Recently some have been promoted to Global Master Trainer levels at plants in Mexico and the UK.

Nissan quality was not built in a day. The same sign hangs in the plants at every global Nissan production site. Our fledgling Master Trainer now leaves the GTC and one dojo behind, newly fitted with his black belt certification. But another dojo and another challenge still awaits: Taking Nissan's quality out into the world.