Toyota Motor Corp. has been applying its kaizen (continuous improvement) principle to the management of its parts suppliers so that it can maintain or swiftly resume production in the event of natural disasters.

As it took the firm weeks to confirm the damage to its suppliers following the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake, forcing it to reduce production for months, Toyota has developed a supplier database to quickly grasp the effects of disasters on its supply chain and mitigate the impact of disruptions by securing alternative suppliers.

When a major earthquake hit Niigata Prefecture on June 18, registering an upper 6 on the Japanese seismic intensity scale of 7, the firm managed to confirm in half a day — thanks to the risk management database — that no damage was caused to its parts supply system.