Toyota is a highly profitable Japanese automaker renowned for pristine quality, cost reduction and lean production methods. The company has been a model of operational excellence and its success has been acknowledged through The Toyota Way and the Toyota Way Fieldbook where it sums up the principles and behaviors that underlie the Toyota Motor Corporation’s managerial approach and production system. However, over the years its overly ambitious growth goals seem to have caused an escalating number of recalls. In 2012, the company recalled 7. 43 million vehicles worldwide over a faulty power-window switch that could cause fires. Toyota said grease wasn’t applied evenly to the switch during production, causing friction and sometimes smoke and fire. Affecting more than a dozen models produced from 2005 through 2010”. But, what happened to Toyota, a company who was synonymous to quality and how were 7. 43 million vehicles affected? The lack of quality control processes is to blame for this recall.
In globalized mass production automakers install the same parts on multiple models but in different countries. Therefore, if one part is flawed, such as the window switch in our case, the lineups are exposed to big recalls. The fact that not enough grease was applied to the switches was an accident caused by man-made errors and therefore could have been prevented. Toyota could easily reduce disasters like these through quality management or the zero defect program.
Philip Crosby, a major contributor to the quality movement is responsible for this program, which emphasizes on “doing things right the first time”. But what is quality? And how do we manage it? Quality is survival and it is managed through continuous improvement (kaizen). An important part of this process and the foundation of Toyotas philosophy is the concept of “lean production”, which means identifying and eliminating waste in all work activities.