The Honda A-Type, Honda’s First Product on the Market (1947)

Machining the A-Type engine at the Noguchi Plant (1948)

The conveyor line did not work as smoothly as anticipated, either. Intended to eliminate steps in processing, the die cast parts refused to fit together properly, so they also had to be worked by hand, after all. However, if President Honda found people doing that kind of work when he came to visit the shop floor, there would be hell to pay.

“If he saw a rack of files used to shape the parts, the sparks would fly instantly,” Isobe recalls. “‘Why is the line stopped! That part is terrible, toss it out!’ But if we did what he said, we would have had to throw out all the parts. His ideal was to set it up so even the newest employee could fit the parts together, but it didn’t look like we’d reach that level for some time yet. Even though he knew this, I think that seeing it before his very eyes made him angry.

He continues: “The Yamashita Plant, where the parts were ordered and managed, also got dragged in. ‘The Old Man is coming!’ It was like an air raid alarm. As soon as we heard it, we’d quickly put away the files and hammers and any other tools we were using to fix the parts, and hide them away, then rush to get the conveyor line moving.”

President Honda himself was a master of hand tooling work. He had tremendous skill as an artisan. However, as he himself would grumble:

“It’s no good if we need to have special skills or techniques to assemble our products. The plant workers and the repairmen at the dealers aren’t all like me. Don’t make something that requires a master’s touch.”

“You would never hear the Old Man in those days coming out with any high-sounding lines like, ‘This is my philosophy’” Kawashima recalls. “At that time, we were listening to him without ever thinking about a philosophy. Later, though, I realized that if I thought about it that way, those things he said were all the basis for the Honda company’s way of thinking.”

He also remarks:
The Old Man’s yelling and hitting was the old-style master’s way of handling apprentices. The things he said, though, were the opposite of the traditional craftsman’s mentality. It was the modern manager speaking, and being almost too innovative. This was a total contradiction, but for better or worse, that was Soichiro Honda. I’d say to myself, ‘Idiot!’ but I couldn’t help agreeing with him. He had that kind of effect. So I didn’t quit, after all, but kept on trying to catch up to him.
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