A quick quiz to test your knowledge of manufacturing excellence – When faced with a serious quality problem a company should:
A. Drastically increase the number of inspectors, establish a management committee to manage quality, add layers of management to establish greater control, and stretch out lead times to build in more time for all of these inspectors and management controls to check and control the quality of the work being done.
B. Reduce the number of inspectors to create a stronger culture of responsibility for quality at the lowest levels of the company, empower the people doing the work to make the best quality decisions, eliminate layers of management to get a shorter communications chain between the top managemers and the people doing the value-adding work, and tighten up cycle times to get the quickest feedback possible between the point at which defects are created and they are discovered in subsequent steps.
For most, perhaps even all, Evolving Excellence readers this was taken as a rhetorical question. Anyone who knows the first thing about quality knows that B is the clear path to follow, and that A reflects the thinking of old school managers who think that senior managers and quality experts are the source of quality, rather than the people actually doing the work. Answer A thinking is based on an assumption of a certain level of ignorance and incompetence at the front line that has to be controlled by a smarter, more dedicated higher level.
If there has been any doubt about just how far Toyota has fallen from the heady days of the 1970's, 80's and into the 90's the fact that they answered 'A' to these questions should put an end to it. They are solidly among the ranks of the mediocre.
"Toyota is extending the time it takes to develop new vehicles by about four weeks for more quality checks … Toyota now has 1,000 people devoted to quality control … an increase of about 50% … the company has created a 100-person committee devoted to incorporating customer feedback into vehicle development … It has also added a new layer of managers to help train and instruct engineers."
Kiichiro Toyoda and Taichi Ohno would never have even considered compounding a quality problem with so much pure waste. They would have known that, if the extra 500 quality experts, 100 committee members, and the new layer of management were that much smarter than the engineers they should replace the engineers with that enlightened horde – not put them in pace to do nothing of value but to spend their days looking over engineers' shoulders to keep them honest.
It used to be you had to go to Detroit to see such a litany of all the wrong moves. but Ford and (much to my surprise) even Chrysler/Fiat know better than to operate like this. I think that, in my future writing about lean, I am going to have to refer to 'Old Toyota' versus "New Toyota' because it is increasingly clear that they are two completely different companies. And it is increasingly clear that in their rush to take over from the old regime and globalize, modernize and maximize, the leadership of Toyota failed to take the time to learn from the people they were so bent on replacing. They have failed to respect what got them where they are today, and that does not bode well at all for the future.