Toyota’s recent problems become debates about how Toyota can get certain risks with its lean manufacturing concept. It is interesting to analyze how could these problems happen to the car company that was famous in quality? It is the company that many companies around the world wanted to copy its quality system. Right now, the company's status as the model for lean manufacturing has come into question. Many analysts try to answer this question.
One opinion is from David Meier, co-author of "The Toyota Way Fieldbook" and founder of a consulting company on lean manufacturing. He highlights how Toyota approach with intention to eliminate waste becomes too risky. Toyota is trying to reduce cost by using common parts and designs across multiple product lines, and reducing the number of suppliers to procure parts in greater scale. There is a lot of cost reduction from this effort, but still something can happen and have a big impact.
Another different opinion is from Paul Ingrassia, author of "Crash Course: The American Automobile Industry's Road from Glory to Disaster" and writer for Wall Street Journal. He said “Toyota is suffering from trying to get too big, too fast”. In doing this, Toyota abandoned one of its conservative cultures. Lean is not cutting costs. Lean is eliminating waste and a tremendous waste is a recall. Much of the focus on Toyota is to cut cost and forget about the quality. Randy Goodden, president and founder of the International Product Safety and Liability Prevention Association, said “What happens in this scenario is quality is doing nothing more than assuring all customers that a product is built in compliance to the specification. The specification itself ends up being defective. That means customers are almost assured to receive a defective product."
This condition reminds me when I studied about Total Quality Management. The concept promises standardization of product in quality but it doesn’t mean you get the best quality of product. The concept still needs continuous improvement culture to drive the best quality. May be, this culture has been missing or miss direction when Toyota expands its operational. It’s is difficult to keep your standard when you have global operation with several factories around the world. I think the second opinion sounds more reasonable.
So what is your opinion regarding this case? Do you think Toyota can recover its reputation in the future? Is it lean manufacturing responsible for Toyota’s problem, or on the contrary because Toyota didn’t apply lean manufacturing well enough these days? According to Consumer Reports, the bible of the car-buying public, now rates Ford's quality higher than Toyota's because of these problems.