Toyota Motor Manufacturing U.S.A.
The case study of Toyota Motor Manufacturing U.S.A. is rather controversial and complicated to catch at first glimpse. Yet, it is a guideline for the professionals who are willing to protect their companies from the hazards Toyota eventually suffered from. This paper specifically focuses on the set of problems that Doug Friesen had to face in relation to the principles of Toyota Production System.
First of all, it should be stated that the real problem concerned the defective seats. The latter could lead to the worsening of the line utilization rates and damaging of the company’s reputation that had been established for years. At the same time, it should be stressed that some of the principles of TPS were harmful for the company and needed an urgent revision. They are enumerated below together with the problems they caused.
One of the Toyota’s principles refers to the continual organizational learning through Kaizen. It provided that while being overseen by the coordinators, the employees were enabled to pass their own decisions every time the problems occurred. The leaders of the company considered that it would contribute to the development and spreading of the concept of ‘good thinking’ among the employees and would teach them to be autonomous in the workplace. The owners hoped that the employees would eventually be able to solve the problems on their own immediately after their detection. In general, it was a positive element of the company’s philosophy. However, in reality, it appeared to be not so positive. In practice, the employees made the decisions to solve the problem in a rather different, often polarized way. The standards were either not set or not followed by the employees. The deviations from the TPS were numerous. At the same time, as the problem was solved at the place of its detection, the top administration of the company was unaware of it and, therefore, it could not properly address it.
Another problem refers to the quality of the sets. The TPS provides that the employees had to stop when they discovered the quality problem (Jidoka). The workers indeed stopped the manufacturing process as the run ratio was down to a merger of 85% which was 10% less than projected. The difference was noticed by Friesen but not addressed and considered. It was obviously in contradiction with the TPS as once the problem was identified, it should have been addressed. These numbers show the quantity of cars actually assembled in proportion to the cars that could have been produced in case there were no line stoppages. The 10% difference is huge and hard to omit. Thus, the top management of the company could be blamed for non-addressing the obvious problems that in fact affected the line production, sales rates, and goals of the entire company.
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Jidoka provides for ensuring quality during the manufacturing process and admonishes any kind of deviances from the set standards and the value-additions. However, as it has been stressed, the defected seats were not corrected or removed immediately after their detection. However, the cars with the defective seats passed the performance and quality control and were only stopped by the assembling team. Toyota’s employees obviously did not follow the set of the principles that constituted the TPS of the company mainly due to the increased expense that could have been caused by the line stoppage. As it was revealed, hiding of the problem cost Toyota a huge amount of money and efforts to dislocate and solve the issue. The famous quality control team failed to perform its duties properly, and it was a fact known by many. Prior to the incident, Toyota was especially proud of this team, and the latter was considered as a competitive advantage. At the end, it hit the company’s reputation the most as it transformed from a proactive company into a reactive one. The 13th principle of the TPS which states that the leader or overseeing manager should check the problem for himself has also been violated as many were aware of the defective seats and kept silent about it.
Additionally, despite the fact that the company committed to produce that cars and sell them at the lowest cost possible, it actually did not benefit from such a policy. The reduction of the price should have been compensated by the elimination of waste caused by the production of the cars. In turn, such an elimination incurred in more costs spent as the company had to hire the dwellings for the waste storage as well as employ the personnel who watched the inventory and controlled it. Such an unwise practice has cost a lot for the company to implement it.
The 9th principle provides that the suppliers should be respected, challenged, and provided help if needed. Yet, when the company declared this principle, it aimed at making its employees cooperate with the supplying agents. However, in order to ensure the mutual respect and collaboration, the company should have demanded the same from its partners to make its employees check the quality of the supplied materials. Instead, little has been mentioned about the supplier in the case in question, specifically the ways the company tried to involve the supplier, namely the KFS into the process of problem solution. Both companies should have cooperated on the solution of the problem as their reputation was damaged by the fact that the cars produced had the defective seats.
The TPS principle also provides that the use of visual control will ensure that no problem would be hidden. Yet, the case proved otherwise. Many problematic issues were hidden from the company’s eyes basically due to the absence of proper quality control systems. The missing parts of the cars, wrinkles, and other parts were definitely the guilt of the KFS. Its inspection of the seats proved to be ineffective as many defective seats were considered to be suitable for the cars and the ones that are meeting the requirements set by the standards. Additionally, the number of trainings that were provided by the company was ineffective as the defects occurred all along the production line and there was no person who could report it to the top management. The insufficient feedback system also deprived Doug of the opportunity to reach a specific solution for the problem. The problems were not shared and discussed; on the contrary, they frequently were hidden or silenced. It should be stressed that such a situation could only happen under the condition of the ineffective work of quality control management team.
One of the principles of TPS also states that the management decisions should be based on a long-term philosophy even at the expense of the short-term financial goals. It means that the goals that are strategic for the company should go first. They are to be reached even if the company has to endure certain financial losses in the real-time regime. This principle, however, was not followed as the line with the defective seats was not stopped. Doug Friesen was afraid of the increased losses that might have been caused by the stoppage of the line production. He definitely disregarded the old company’s principle of providing the best quality cars for an affordable price and let the defective cars be sold.
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In conclusion, it should be stated that the main reason why such a problem occurred was the failure of the employees to comply with the standards. In its turn, the standards were not clearly set while the employees definitely needed more trainings and a proper quality control system. The QC team should have also monitored the personnel, not the final products only. All of these efforts together with the proper and timely addressing of the problem by the top management might have prevented the problems from occurring.