The author of the best selling book The Toyota Way, in an article written for the Institute of Professional Engineers, discusses lean manufacturing and coverage of the recent recalls while addressing concerns that some have raised about whether lean production methods adopted from the Toyota Production System by so many companies around the world – are still optimal.
“Do the data support the demise of Toyota’s famed obsession with quality and safety?” Jeffrey Liker asks. “Certainly, any objective look at the data would say that the company appears to be one of the best automakers in quality and safety, continuing through 2010,” he says, pointing out the number of quality awards it has won this year. “I am not arguing that Toyota is perfect and doesn’t have problems. Toyota autos, as all autos, have unforeseen problems, which may ultimately lead to recalls,” Liker notes, pointing out that there were nearly 500 auto recalls in the United States in 2009 – nearly 10 recalls per week. However, he says, “The news of Toyota’s demise is premature, and most of the assumptions about plummeting quality and safety of Toyota automobiles have been exaggerated and sensationalized.”
Liker points out that “recalls are an imperfect measure because a small number of problems can lead to huge numbers of vehicles recalled, and the definition of a recall.” He also notes that automakers sometimes choose very different ways to respond to an issue. In March, for example, Toyota recalled certain Prius to adjust software that controls the car’s anti-lock braking system. “In fact, Ford had a similar problem on the Fusion Hybrid around the same time and was able to get by quietly with a technical service bulletin,” Liker writes.
A significant part of the route forward, particularly in improving consumer trust, according to the professor,lies in the quality principles and lean manufacturing that made Toyota so strong to begin with. Speaking of the steps that the company has taken to improve quality assurance, Liker writes, “I would argue that the approach Toyoda is taking follows the principles of the Toyota way exceptionally well, and that is what will help Toyota get past this issue.” He notes, “The Toyota way is to confront problems openly, find the root cause, solve the problems and learn. In the long-term, if Toyoda is successful in leading Toyota to another level of customer responsiveness, we may have an even better model for excellence in the future.”
It is important to note that in America, Toyota continues to have a significant positive impact on the American economy.
Toyota total U.S. investment has grown to more than $18 billion and, together with dealers and suppliers, Toyota has helped create more than 200,000 jobs in the U.S. The Company has also contributed nearly half a billion dollars to U.S. charitable organizations and community institutions in the past 20 years.
And, 80 percent of all Toyotas sold in the United States over the past 20 years are still on the road today.