Today we’d like to introduce you to Samuel Obara.

Samuel, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I immigrated to the US from Brazil when I was 29 years old to learn English and to finish a masters degree in business administration. With little money to support my living, a company in the Silicon Valley offered a scholarship and support in exchange for some help they needed in their manufacturing plants: they needed to cut cost, improve quality, speed up delivery time, increase customer service, etc…My experience of 13 years in Toyota Brazil, Japan and Venezuela were very useful since Toyota has been regarded as having a model production system.

A few years after getting my green card and with enough English fluency, I started a consulting association -Honsha.ORG, aiming to help organizations improve their operations as well as to help disadvantaged communities around the world improve their lives, all through Lean and Kaizen concepts (the techniques I learned from Toyota). I also started teaching classes for the California Community Colleges, San Diego State University, and a few other institutions.

Today Honsha.ORG has supported over 450 companies around the world, it has offered Lean and Kaizen support in places as far as Kenya, East Timor, and the Amazon, it has taught thousands in the business community on how to improve their products and services. Our clients are in sectors such as military, healthcare, government, finance, wholesale/retail, manufacturing, etc. And the problems we solve range from reducing wait lines in a DMV office to reducing the cost of a pair of eyeglasses. We were proud to sponsor a San Diegan for the first time, to go to Ethiopia and help poor communities there with the Lean and Kaizen concepts.

Has it been a smooth road?
Not understanding the language is my most vivid challenge, and I think the first one. As an adult immigrant, learning a new language to professional fluency seems to be a tremendous challenge, but it is possible with enough determination. I remember attending adult schools in the evening, carrying a dictionary everywhere I went, trying to read as much as possible, etc… It was draining.

Another obstacle was that my first several months in the US were tight. Money was running out quickly, I didn’t have income for my first nine months, I was taking several English classes, I had only a few more months to finish my student visa and return to Brazil, and I realized that money was going to run out well before I could learn what I needed. I still wanted to apply for an MBA but evidently my English wouldn’t get me a scholarship or even admission for that matter.

My hopes were low when I coincidentally met an engineer in one trip to Detroit, and right there in the waiting room at the airport he said his boss was looking for someone exactly like me, his company could sponsor me for my education, my English would be just enough for what they needed, etc.. A week later his boss called me and offered me a job!! Just in time before I ran out of money. some people call it a coincidence, synchronicity, I knew at that time it was a miracle.

So, as you know, we’re impressed with Honsha.ORG – tell our readers more, for example what you’re most proud of as a company and what sets you apart from others.
Honsha is a premier Lean Consulting group that has built a strong reputation by transforming companies using the TPS/Lean philosophy learned at Toyota. Based in San Diego and with offices in São Paulo (Brazil) and Tokyo (Japan), Honsha serves companies of all sizes and types, from small and midsize companies to Fortune 500 and major multinational corporations around the world.

For almost two decades, Honsha has been implementing TPS/Lean around the world in a variety of industries: Automotive, Food, Pharmaceutical, Manufacturing, Healthcare, Banking, Insurance, Government, and others. We focus on the purpose of TPS/Lean and the principles of Continuous Improvement and Respect before we look for ways to implement tools. This has allowed us to develop a strong and loyal customer base because this is the basis for our customers to become self-reliant.

Honsha associates, as former Toyota team members, have been deeply exposed to the Toyota culture and its DNA. Because of this unique background, their understanding goes beyond the Lean Manufacturing tools learned by reading books. At Honsha, they have all worked it, lived it, and ingrained it into their way of practicing and modeling TPS/Lean. Our clients consistently remind us that we “see things differently”, and this is our edge.

I am proud that Honsha has been able to give back to the community and has been able to teach thousands of multipliers about how to improve their businesses and other people’s lives.

Let’s touch on your thoughts about our city – what do you like the most and least?
Having traveled to so many countries and visited cities all over the US, San Diego is unique in several ways.

San Diego has everything a big city has to offer, great restaurants and entertainment, excellent colleges, hospitals and employment options, great diversity, parks, zoos, nature, etc, etc. But at the same time, San Diego has the feel of a laid back and relaxed atmosphere of a small beach town.

I know San Diego’s traffic is not the best in the world and can be improved quite a bit, but realistically speaking, you won’t find this anywhere in the world: within a few minute radius from downtown you can be at the airport, at the train station, at the cruise ship port, at the zoo, cross the border, visit wineries, and of course relax on the beach. And traffic in downtown still flows!! I like that San Diegans, although very spoiled by the weather and everything else I mentioned, are the friendliest people.

Every now and then I hear from people who have visited San Diego that they think our weather forecast is the most boring, “it is always the same, it never changes…”. I console them saying that sometimes we do have very cold weather, too. “but when that happens, we close the window”. haha .

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