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UCM Faculty Member Participates in Lean Japan Tour in Manufacturing

By Jeff Murphy, May 1, 2023


University of Central Missouri faculty member Dr. Suhansa (Sue) Rodchua, front row, far right,  visited Suzaki Industries, Gifu Prefecture, during the recent Lean Japan Tour of manufacturing businesses made possible by Shinka Management.

WARRENSBURG, MO – Dr. Suhansa (Sue) Rodchua, a University of Central Missouri faculty member in the School of Industrial Science and Technology, in March traveled overseas to participate in the Lean Japan Tour. The purpose of her visit was to learn about lean manufacturing implementation and the Toyota Production System within some of Japan’s leading companies. 

The Lean Japan Tour included visits to five manufacturing plants in Tokyo and Nagoya, including a Toyota final assembly plant, companies in Toyota’s supply chain, and a steel service center operated by the global metals giant Metal One. The focus of lean is to create a culture of continuous improvement (Kaizen) and reduce waste (Muda) from business processes.

The Lean Japan Tour training program was led by Dr. Paul Smith, a director from Shinka Management, and a team of former Toyota Group managers and expert lean consultants. The program is held several times annually, and the March 2023 tour included 16 participants from countries spanning Australia, Europe, Asia and the United States.

During the tour, participants visited the Toyota Body Seiko plant, the Toyota HiAce final assembly plant, Suzaki Industries, GI Services, Metal One Isuzu, and the Toyota Commemorative Museum of Industry and Technology. A hands-on kanban simulation and a team kaizen challenge were held in a Toyota Group practical training center. The Sensei (Master) led seminars and hands-on practical experiences covering the Toyota Production Systems (TPS), inventory control, 5S, visual management and waste reduction, and guided members of the tour through numerous examples of kaizen and kanban applications in the facilities that were visited.

Reflecting on what she learned from the program, Rodchua said, “This was a great experience to learn from the Sensei and Japanese business owners and managers who really live lean and kaizen culture as part of their everyday life. They told us to think, think hard, think harder, and to use our brain instead of money to solve problems. They led their companies and survived the economic crisis by not depending too heavily on technology or over-doing capital investment. They utilized what they had in order to achieve a profit, rather than rely on the latest and greatest technology.”

Rodchua added, “The group participants were friendly, respectful, and quite experienced in their fields. We exchanged knowledge in various subjects, and from different cultural and industry perspectives.”

She also praised the opportunity to have access to safe, comfortable hotel lodgings, with an excellent array of meals during the tour, and use of a highly efficient transport system. This includes taking advantage of the shinkansen bullet train from Tokyo to Nagoya, where tour members enjoyed a smooth ride reaching speeds of up to 177 miles/hour.

Rodchua is a program coordinator for the Master of Science (MS) in Industrial Management, MS in Technology, Ph.D. Consortium in Technology Management, and Graduate Certificate in Lean Six Sigma. During this recent training opportunity, Rodchua received support from UCM-DLII, UCM-PEC; Dr. Jeff Robertson, dean of the College and Health, Science and Technology; and Dr. Ronnie Rollins, chair of the School of Industrial Science and Technology.

The lean training and factory visit program was made possible by Shinka Management. For more details about the training, consulting and lean study tours provided by Shinka Management, visit:


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