well as workers wear company uniforms. To encourage further open- ness and a closer working relationship, managers sit at open desks on the factory floor next to the production facility. Because most managers are recruited directly from the workforce, they are far more likely to understand the special needs of the employees in their work teams and better prepared to cement strong personal bonds with members of their work teams. In the Japanese system workers even meet in special”quality circles” before or after regular work hours to discuss improvements in the production process. In a recent survey, 76 percent of Japanese workers were found to take part in quality circles. 21 The Japanese production model also places a high priority on what is called “just-in-time” production, or stockless production. The idea behind just-in-time came from a visit to the United States by Taiichi Ohno of Toyota Motors in the 1950S. Ohno was far more impressed with America’s giant supermarkets than with its automotive plants. He later recounted his surprise at the speed and efficiency by which the supermarkets kept shelves stocked with exactly the products customers desired in just the amount needed: supermarket is where a customer can get (1) what is needed, (2) at the time needed, (3) in the amount needed…. We hoped that this would help us approach our just-in-time goal and, in 1953, we actually applied the system in our machine shop at the main plant.”22 Womack, Jones, and Roos tell of being stunned by the difference in physical appearance on the factory floor at a General Motors plant they visited in Framingham, Massachusetts, and a Toyota plant in Japan. At the General Motors facility, parts of the production line were down, workers were milling around with nothing to do, weeks’ worth of inventory were piled up in the aisles, and trash cans were filled with defective parts. In stark contrast, at the Toyota plant the aisles were clear and “the workers were all at their workstations performing their tasks. No workstation had more than an hour’s worth of inventory piled up. As soon as defective parts were discovered they were immediately tagged and sent off to a quality control center for replacement.” The American manufacturing philosophy is based on “just-in- case” production. Automobile manufacturers store large and redundant inventories of materials and equipment along the entire produc- tion line in anticipation of having to replace defective parts or faulty equipment. This process is viewed by Japanese management as costly and unnecessary. The Japanese system of just-in-time production is based on exacting standards of quality control and crisis management


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