To achieve kaizen, management harnesses the collective experience of all of its workers and places value on joint problem-solving.
Work teams on the factory floor are given much greater latitude over the production process. If a machine breaks down or a line slows, the workers themselves often repair the equipment and clear any bottlenecks in the process-a far different approach than that of the Detroit auto manufacturers, where machine breakdowns require noti- fication of supervisors, who, in tum, summon technicians to the floor to fix the equipment. The result is far fewer breakdowns and a more smoothly running line because the workers closest to the production process are better prepared to anticipate problems, and when they do come up, resolve them quickly and efficiently. Again, the data is telling. According to a study conducted by James Harbour on the automotive industry, U.S. equipment was inoperative more than 50 percent of the time while machines in Japanese auto factories were down less than 15 percent of the time. 19
The team-based model of work creates greater efficiencies by encouraging the development of multiskilled workers. Being well versed in a number of tasks on the production floor gives individual workers a far better understanding of the overall manufacturing process-knowledge that can be used effectively within team settings to pinpoint problems and make suggestions for improvements. To assist workers in seeing how their work fits into the larger production process, Japanese companies provide employees with access to all computerized information generated within the company. One Japanese manager explained the importance his company attached to sharing information with workers: “One of our most important jobs is to make all of our employees willing to cooperate fully, and to make them want to continually improve themselves. To achieve this, it is necessary for us to provide all kinds of information equally to every- one. . . . Every employee has the right of access to ‘all’ computerized information within the company.”2
Unlike the older corporate model of management, where decision making is continually being pushed up higher on the managerial hierarchy, the Japanese teamwork model attempts to push decision- making authority as far down the managerial ladder as possible so as to be closer to the point of production. This creates a more egalitarian atmosphere within the factory and far less friction between manage- ment and workers. In most Japanese automotive factories, workers and management share a common cafeteria and parking lot. Managers a


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