The changes experienced in the global business environment have catalyzed new practices and initiatives that can result in improved performance. The ultimate goal of every organizational process is to add value to the targeted customer. Lean has emerged as an evidence-based concept or practice that is capable of improving productivity. Ruttimann and Stockli (2016) indicate that lean is a concept used to minimize resources in business functions and create value for every consumer.
Organizations pursuing the concept focus on the best practices to achieve continuous improvement. Lean thinking guides top managers to optimize how services and products flow in different value streams (Modrak 2014). Many companies have appreciated and implemented the concept of lean in an attempt to become competitive in their respective sectors. A good example of such companies is Toyota Motor Corporation. This discussion will use Lean theory to describe Toyota’s operations and how the model is used to improve quality. Specific recommendations that can be used to improve the firm’s performance will be also presented.
Quality and Lean Operations at Toyota
Toyota Motor Corporation is a leading manufacturer of automotive that meets the diverse needs of many clients across the world (‘Company profile’ 2017). The company was established in the year 1937 by an entrepreneur named Kiichiro Toyoda. He gained much support and resources from his father’s company named Toyota Industries. The company has its headquarters in Toyota City, Aichi.
The Japanese multinational organization employs over 364,000 workers from different parts of the world (‘Company profile’ 2017). Toyota remains one of the most profitable firms in the world. It is also the largest manufacturer of vehicles. Several innovations have made the company a leader in the global automobile industry. For instance, the company has managed to promote the production of electric hybrid cars. The company’s production system has also captured the thoughts of many engineers and researchers. This production process borrows a lot from the concept of lean-to promote performance and productivity. This is the reason why Toyota has been selected for this discussion.
Lean Operations at Toyota: Theoretical Perspectives
Lean is a concept that refers to the process of adding value to targeted customers without using excess resources (Tabuchi 2013). A research study conducted by Jim Womack in the year 1980 came up with the concept to describe the business model implemented by Toyota Motor Corporation. This means clearly that Toyota is one of the companies that have implemented the concept of lean effectively.
Tabuchi (2013) believes that the company’s production system (widely known as the Toyota Production System (TPS) is advanced and capable of streamlining the entire manufacturing process. The TPS approach is usually implemented as a philosophy used to describe and organize different functions in the company.
At Toyota, the critical goal is to reduce waste in an attempt to produce affordable and superb automobiles that resonate with the diverse needs of the customers. The idea of waste elimination at the firm is known as “Muda” (Ruttimann & Stockli 2016). According to Lean theory, companies should consider the most appropriate strategies throughout the manufacturing process to eliminate wastes. At Toyota, seven sources of wastes are identified and addressed throughout the TPS process. Each waste is eliminated using an effective strategy that can eventually result in improved performance and production of quality vehicles.
Overproduction is the first source of waste capable of affecting the manufacturing process. The firm’s TPS approach borrows a Just-In-Time (JIT) approach. This means that different parts are produced and presented whenever they are required during the process. Overproduction is thereby minimized using the approach. Modrak (2014) indicates that overproduction will result in excess lead times and increased storage costs. To deal with such wastes, the company schedules and manufactures vehicles that are demanded by its customers. Storage costs are usually reduced at the firm through the use of a JIT approach.
Waiting is the second source of waste in the manufacturing process. Products that are not being processed have to wait before they are finished. Waiting will increase when the flow of resources, labor, and materials is poor (Ruttimann & Stockli 2016). The issue of waiting is associated with storage costs and longer working hours. At Toyota, different processes are linked to reducing wait time throughout the production process.
Transportation is critical towards supporting a wide range of processes in different units. Products should be delivered promptly to support the manufacturing process. The production system is designed in such a way that the movement of different parts and elements is reduced. The system ensures that materials are delivered whenever they are demanded. The level of unnecessary handling of different parts is reduced. This practice has been observed to deal with breakages and damages (Tabuchi 2013). Consequently, the company has managed to maintain the superiority and effectiveness of its products.
The engineers at the company understand that inappropriate processing can affect the quality of products and increase production costs. At Toyota, the use of automated systems has led to reduced production costs. The automation is usually cheap thereby increasing the effectiveness of the manufacturing process. The machines and systems are maintained and monitored frequently. This approach is associated with minimal investments. The company has used the strategy to reduce wastes thereby dealing with the problem of inappropriate handling (Tabuchi 2013).
Inventory is undertaken at the company to monitor the movement, transportation, and acquisition of different resources. Excessive inventory within a manufacturing channel results in lengthy lead times. At Toyota, unnecessary inventory is avoided to reduce delays (Modrak 2014). Consequently, processes such as communication and identification are done promptly. The use of this approach makes it easier for the firm to lessen the misuse of floor space.
Excess or unnecessary motion is another source of waste that affects the speed of production. The movement of workers from one point to another can result in numerous concerns. For example, a manufacturing firm can present numerous safety and health concerns. The company’s TPS is implemented in such a way that every unnecessary motion is decreased (Modrak 2014). This is achieved through the use of automated systems that deliver unfinished products to the workers promptly.
The company reduces defects through the use of a Just-In-Time inventory (Ruttimann & Stockli 2016). This concept is used to ensure defects are identified immediately and addressed to reduce costs. The production of a defective car stops whenever a defect is noted. The problem is then addressed before proceeding with the manufacturing process. The JIT approach is used to substitute defective parts and monitor other vehicles being manufactured. This process explains why the leaders at Toyota believe strongly that quality is something that is achieved throughout the manufacturing process.
Toyota’s TPS is a classical example of a manufacturing process that applies the unique attributes of lean. This is the case because the model is founded on the aspiration to eliminate different wastes and promote efficient production methods (Yang 2013). Modrak (2014) believes strongly that the TPS model is lean and borrows a lot from the JIT concept. The success of the company’s manufacturing model explains why it has been studied by many companies worldwide. The company has been focusing on new approaches and practices that have the potential to reduce wastes and improve the nature of production.
The company’s TPS approach is established to manufacture cars in an efficient and timely manner. This is guided by the expectations and needs of targeted customers. By doing so, the firm finds it easier to complete the targeted vehicles much faster and deliver them to the customers (Ruttimann & Stockli 2016). The use of the approach has made Toyota the best example of a successful company.
To ensure the Toyota Production System (TPS) remains sustainable, the firm has gone ahead to present two concepts that can support the method. These concepts include “jikoda” and Just-In-Time. The first concept is used to denote how different production processes at the company are automated. Human touch is added to ensure defective products are stopped immediately. The process has made it possible for the company to diminish wastes accordingly and prevent the production of ineffective products. The practice has continued to support the manufacturing process for many years.
The “jikoda” strategy supports the idea that the quality of a product is realized throughout the manufacturing process (Yang 2013). Defective parts or machines are identified and corrected before continuing the production process. The concept is merged with the JIT approach to ensure the delivered parts are desirable and appropriate. When the production process in a specific line has been stopped, the operators are guided to take up other roles to eliminate losses and wastes. An operator is expected to monitor different machines to streamline the process.
The JIT concept is added to the TPS to ensure the materials produced are matched with every production phase. This means that unwanted materials are not produced since they can result in wastes such as excess inventory, wait times, or overproduction (Ruttimann & Stockli 2016). Movements in different departments are decreased in an attempt to reduce accidents and injuries. The production of required parts reduces numerous issues such as storage problems and damages.
The JIT approach has been embraced because of its potential to promote new improvements. Inconsistencies or unnecessary requirements are addressed throughout the production process or line. The targeted vehicle is manufactured by the demands of the customers. The shortest time is taken to complete the process since elements and parts are produced delivered whenever they are demanded (Modrak 2014). This strategy has been observed to reduce the rate at which parts are lost or misplaced. The required parts are usually presented in the assembly line. Parts needed for a specific process will be presented promptly.
With the use of these processes, it becomes easier for the company to identify new areas that can be improved. Consequently, the company has continued to increase its capabilities. This has led to more vehicles that are produced annually. Such vehicles have also continued to satisfy the changing needs of more customers and users in different parts of the world (Ruttimann & Stockli 2016). Decisions are made continuously depending on the successes and challenges that emerge throughout the manufacturing process. The company’s ability to apply the major concepts of lean explains why it has become a successful and admirable player in the global automobile industry.
It is agreeable that some jobs at the company are tedious or difficult. Using the lean concept, Toyota has managed to reduce most of the emerging wastes through the reduction of tasking roles and activities (Yang 2013). Duties and roles are supported continuously to ensure the production process is simplified. The training of the workers at Toyota is an evidence-based process that makes them more effective and capable of delivering positive results. The inclusion of flexible manufacturing approaches is something that can meet the needs of the targeted customer.
Conclusion and Recommendations
This discussion shows clearly that Toyota’s positive performance is attributable to its lean manufacturing process. The company has redesigned its lean process in such a way that it promotes effectiveness while at the same time reducing wastes. The workers at the firm are equipped with adequate skills and resources in an attempt to deliver meaningful results. Adherence to the outlined procedures is something that is taken seriously throughout the manufacturing process.
The lean process is analyzed periodically to ensure constant improvement becomes part of the model. This goal is achieved by identifying new problems that might arise and affect the process (Tabuchi 2013). Lineworkers are usually empowered using the right incentives and respected in an attempt to increase productivity. Teams are used to support the manufacturing process. The continuous use of adequate training programs has led to improved performance. Toyota is therefore a successful firm that has managed to apply the concepts of lean manufacturing effectively. The firm’s leaders have always remained passionate and committed to pursuing excellence.
This discussion shows conclusively that Toyota’s lean strategy is appropriate and capable of supporting the company’s business model. The corporation has managed to produce superior cars that can compete successfully in the global market. Some suggestions can also be considered in an attempt to ensure the firm remains relevant in its market segment. The first recommendation is for the top leadership to start acknowledging that lean is an unending process (Yang 2013).
This understanding will ensure the idea of constant improvement is taken seriously. The second recommendation is for the firm to monitor technological changes and combine them with its lean-approach. The strategy will create a new process that meets the demands of more customers. The emergence of competitive firms such as Volkswagen and Mercedes Benz should be examined to improve the company’s lean model accordingly.
The ultimate goal is to ensure the company remains competitive in the automotive industry. The use of research and development (R&D) will deliver new insights that can be applied to deal with specific wastes and make different roles much simpler than ever before (Modrak 2014). These recommendations can make it possible for Toyota to remain relevant and profitable.
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Ruttimann, B & Stockli, M 2016, ‘Going beyond triviality: the Toyota production system – lean manufacturing beyond Muda and kaizen ’, Journal of Science and Management, vol. 9, no. 1, pp. 140-149.
Tabuchi, H 2013, ‘Eiji Toyoda, promoter of the Toyota way and engineer of its growth, dies at 100’, The New York Times. Web.
Yang, C 2013, ‘An integrated model of the Toyota production system with total quality management and people factors’, Human Factors and Ergonomics in Manufacturing & Service Industries, vol. 23, no. 5, pp. 450-461.