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Journal Review: Changes in Toyota Motor’s operations management
This journal paper, namely, Changes in Toyota Motor’s operations management, focuses on the updated truth of the legendary operation system in Toyota: the Toyota Production System which is considered as one of the key source of competitive strength for Toyota. There are two key guidelines of the TPS: a) only products to be sold are produced; b) smooth and uninterrupted flows which arrive “Just in-time” to be proceeds to eliminate the wastes.
Firstly, the TPS can help achieve continuous improvement through motivating the staffs to provide recommendations on how the quality control process could be improved. Secondly, TPS could help reduce the happening of stoppages and minor breakdowns and their impacts by dividing the assemble line into various segments which will be operated by work units of about 20 staffs. And segments are made by introducing the intra-line buffers which is in contradiction with the traditional ideas of TPS and this change is in accordance with the thinking to build up reasonable product modules which contributes to a more transparent and more humanized product process; Thirdly, by having the sub-assemblies in the TPS system, Toyota managed to reduce the physical burden the assemble line workers because of the decreased number of parts to be assembled. Fourthly, through the creation of segments and sub-assemblies, employees would be able to manage and monitor a shorter line which could help them to obtain the sense of achievement because they believe that they have known the whole line very well and there would not be many problems that they could not handle.
3. Disadvantages and limitations
One disadvantage of the TPS is that in term of operation management like typical assemble lines it still requires the assembly worker to work under pressure in term of having a strict time schedule and stress such as the requirement of them to provide suggestions to improve the systems though the number of suggestion had dropped as found in the study. Because according to the finding in Toyota Kyushu, an independent company under Toyota Motors, there still had been indirect link between the number and quality of the suggestions summated and the chance of promotion and bonus which still press the employees to generate recommendations. And hence stress caused by such suggestion system still exists. What is more, the dividing of segments though is believed would increase the staff’ perception of achievement by handing a shorter product line, but the creation of more segments would increase the complexity of the assemble line and thus drive up the job volume of management and also quality control process.
4. Evaluations of the journal
As pointed out by the authors, one limitation of the study that could not be eliminated is that the TPS is an ideal concept, though there are some guiding principles and descriptions of the ideal systems, still suppose that there is a perfect TPS but actually the factory selected may just fulfill only 70% or 80% of the ideal model. Hence, the research results may not 100% reflect the truth of TPS. And this journal concludes several very helpful features of the new TPS: firstly, the new TPS by breaking some of its previous rules such as breaking the production line into segments has been undergoing constant changes that need the continual adjustment and changes in the management thinking; secondly, though the continuous improvement systems though recommendations collection system has still been contributing to the some major changes adopted by the company to improve it business and operation efficiencies together with a lot of minor changes, the quality of the recommendations has decreased to some extent; thirdly, even though the TPS promotes continual innovation and new developments, because of the finding of the fact of failed trail to implement an extremely high tech methods in the Toyota Tahara plan because the major setbacks of the methods such as unacceptable repairing costs and large required fix costs together with the frontline workers’ unwillingness to accept the radical changes. Hence, it would be concluded that the innovations and improvements made by the TPS should be incremental and gradual rather than sudden radical changes and also communications work should be done to prepare the staffs to the coming changes.
In addition, regarding the value of the journal, since the journal was targeting at locating the changes of TPS, Toyota’s most famous manufacturing system in year 2001, but to date with the changes happening to content and concepts the conclusions the research should be done again with reference to the most updated TPS system.
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