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Review of “Changes in Toyota Motor’s operations management”
1. Initiatives of the journal paper
This journal paper select the topic about the Toyota’s operations management with the focus on the update of the Toyota Production System (TPS). Originally called “just-in-time production”, the Toyota Production System (TPS) was foundational to Toyota’s initial success, TPS, through which manufacturing and logistics’ activities are carefully integrated with the purpose of eliminating waste and inconsistencies in production processes and outcomes as well as preventing overburdening different parts of the production process at different times, was unique in the automobile industry when Toyota established it (Ireland, Hitt& Hoskisson 2009, p. 84). And the aim of the journal was update the most recent data since at that time the most recent data published in English were collected between 1992 and 1995 to find out the most recent changes in the TPS as the paper suggested that there had been continuous changes which were inherent in the TPS.
2. Data collection methods
Besides the internal document reading and review of the business magazine articles and academic publications, two major way of data collection were use in this study: a standardized information form filled by staffs via email and fax and on site visits to Toyota Takaoka (17 April 2001), Daihatsu-Ikeda (8 May 2001) and Toyota Kyushu (25 May 2001) and the face to face interview with the senior management.
3. Changes in Toyota Production System (TPS)
3.1 Background of the changes
After a failed experiment to reduce the demand for workers using a high tech automation strategy because of the difficulties in hiring and keeping enough of assemble line workers, Toyota prepared a substitute strategy which is “an automobile assembly line where people play the main role”. This strategy includes five components and four of which are discussed in the study: Segmented lines, Ergonomic measures, Mechanization and automation and Improvement activities/QC. And the changes of the TPS were also found in these four categories as stated in following.
3.2 The changes found in the three factories
3.2.1 Segmented lines
Segmented lines refer to the division of the assembly line into different segments. In Toyota Kyushu, the key assembly line is divided into 11 segments with the target to motivate the employees because a shorter product line increases the employees’ ability to identify with a clear picture of the production line.
3.2.2 Ergonomic measures
Ergonomic measures are measures to make the assembly tasks ‘can be performed with a reasonable degree of comfort by people with a will to work’. Such measures are found in Toyota Takaoka in term of the frequent use of synchronized dolly which is a small cart that moves with bodies to pick up the tools more easily.
3.2.3 Mechanization and automation
Mechanization and automation is regarding the automation of the selected tasks by relatively simple machinery. This change is seen in Toyota Kyushu in term of the “Mieru-ka” in mechanization by replacing the complex machines with the simple forms of mechanization to make it more understandable to the workers. Similar changes could be found in Toyota Takaoka by using the so called “human kind automation” and limit the large investment in the mechanization.
3.2.4 Improvement activities/QC
Improvement activities/QC is about stimulating workers to come up with suggestions and join the effort of quality control. This change is seen in Toyota Kyushu in term of a total of 22, 000 suggestions are collected each year and people are indirectly be motivated to do so because invisible link between the suggestion giving and the chance of better promotion and compensation and benefits is there.
From the data and conclusions made by the paper, we can see that the paper has confirmed the strategic change of the TPS which include five components and four of which are confirmed in the study: Segmented lines, Ergonomic measures, Mechanization and automation and Improvement activities/QC. But there are also major limitations of the study: the study was done on three factories which were not representative enough; also the visit only last for three hours which is obvious for the authors to understanding all the truth and there could be fact hidings.