The Japanese form of lean production starts by doing away with the traditional managerial hierarchy and replacing it with multiskilled teams that work together at the point of production. In the Japanese lean factory, design engineers, computer programmers, and factory workers interact face-to-face, sharing ideas and implementing joint decisions directly on the factory floor. The classical Taylor model of scientific management, which favored the separation of mental from physical labor and the retention of all decision making in the hands of management, is abandoned in favor of a cooperative team approach designed to harness the full mental capabilities and work experience of everyone involved in the process of making an automobile. For example, in the older mass-production model, research and development is separated from the factory and housed in a laboratory. Scientists and engineers design new models and the machinery to produce them in the laboratory and then introduce the changes to the factory floor along with a complete set of detailed instructions and schedules for mass producing the product. Under the new system of lean produc- tion, the factory floor becomes in effect the research and development laboratory, a place where the combined expertise of everyone in the production process is utilized to make “continual improvements” and refinements in the production process and the final product.
Workers from every department are even invited to take part in the design of new cars, a process always under the tight control of an engineering elite in the older U.S. auto companies. Concurrent engi- neering, as it has come to be known, is based on the principle that everyone affected by the design, scale-up, production, distribution, marketing, and sales of a new automobile should participate as earlyas possible in the development of a new car to ensure that each depart- ment’s specific needs and requirements are taken into consideration and to help pinpoint potential trouble spots before full-scale produc- tion is set. Studies over the years suggest that up to 75 percent of a product’s cost is determined at the conceptual stage. A delay of just six months in getting a new product to market can cut profits by up to 33 percent. IS Japanese companies have found that by including every- one in at the design stage, crucial bottom-line costs can be held to a
The notion of continual improvement is called kaizen and is con-
sidered the key to the success of Japanese production methods. Unlike the older American model, in which innovations are made infre- quently and often in a single changeover, the Japanese production system is set up to encourage continued change and improvement a


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