Toyota is not only one of the most respected and efficient carmakers in the world, but one of the most respected and efficient manufacturers of anything, period. Companies from Boeing to Intel have adopted Toyota’s Just In Time manufacturing technique, which allowed it to become the first carmaker on the planet to produce more than 10 million vehicles annually.
As this Bloomberg video explains, Toyota’s waste-reducing methods were borne out of necessity, as resources were scarce in post-war Japan. It was so poor that Toyota could only afford to put brakes on the front wheels and one headlight on its K-Series truck.
It was a visit to Piggly Wiggly stores that gave industrial engineer Taiichi Ohno the inspiration for lean manufacturing. Back home, his theories were put into practice as Toyota pioneered the concept of kaizen, a system of continuous improvement that gave factory workers a voice, and kanban, a just-in-time parts tracking system that eventually gave rise to the QR code. The video includes vintage footage of T80 Corona sedans being assembled, just a few of the 250 million vehicles Toyota has built to date, thanks to Just-In-Time manufacturing.
I believe Toyota (Toyoda ) exec’s visit to a Ford assembly plants had a lot to do with over all efficiency later used in their own manufacturing. They learned a lot about various tooling ideas and assembly line procedures on these same visits.
While it’s interesting to see US manufacturers “adopting” the Toyota way, they have a habit of cherry picking what they want of the system. Toyota would never have Boeing 787’s and 737’s backed up on the tarmac with no engines.
The thing with this Yellow cord is adopted outside of the Automobile world, too.
When I worked for Amazon in Customer care, they had a procedure called “Andon cord” wich is directly influenced by this very system from Toyota. They even mentioned this fact in Training.