Sunday, March 26, 2023
HomeCommentaryManufacturing Innovation: Lessons from the Japanese Auto Industry

Manufacturing Innovation: Lessons from the Japanese Auto Industry

Asian denigration may be a truly unfortunate thing right now. It may even have a long and ugly history. But it is really hard to stand up straight and give a pie in the eye to one particular country in Asia, when it comes to commercial clout. Japan has been quietly and thoroughly cleaning the American clock for years when it comes to quality and production in many sectors, including the auto industry. Interestingly, while many would concur that Japan has been proving this steadily since the 70s, fewer would actually realize that the inroads were well underway far earlier, having begun in the 60s. It may be that the first inklings of Japan’s rock star status occurred in the eighties with acknowledgement of Toyota’s coast to coast success. In terms of labor requirements and total time needed to create a factory produced ready for use vehicle, Japan was already doing better than many US factories. Rapid inventory turnover, a process technique have helped achieve this level of proficiency. One important thing to note. By using inventory turnover as a bar to meet, rather than a devised schedule, it indicates a critical skew in the direction of meeting market needs and placing them over perceived company production needs. This principal and other Japanese principals are both teachable and learnable. They can be applied across the glove. This means they can work in the US as well.

Key Takeaways:

  • Some facts are known. For example no one is surprised that Japan got cozy in the global auto market in the 70s.
  • It’s less well known that this cozying began well before the 70s. It was a strength as far back as the 60s.
  • Already a global leader, Japan has made jaw-dropping inroads in the areas of productivity, quality and openness to process flexibility within the last three decades.

“In addition, not all Japanese automakers copied and imported American or European equipment and production-management techniques.”

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