US bashing Toyota for displacing GM as #1

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There is a reason why GM is in trouble and Toyota has displaced GM in the number one automobile manufacturer.

Here is a piece from a colleague and friend – Todd Walzer, Todd and I worked together at Intel Fab 8 in Jerusalem in the 80’s.

Working at Intel Jerusalem in the 1980’s, we were all in awe of Japan. Quality Circles, Just-In-Time Manufacturing – Japan was way ahead.  20 years later, it’s still a quality-first country, but there are a few chinks in the armor.

Recently I paid a visit to a top-tier auto makers’ factory.  After the factory-floor discussions, we walked over to the office building, which maintains a traditional “lean and mean” atmosphere.  Little more than a tin hall, with lines of desks in open space, lights switched off by sensors above unmanned desks. The small open-space “meeting area” has high tables with no chairs. Meetings are held standing up – short and to the point.

In the meeting area is a bulletin board, and one posting caught my eye.  It was a list of “This Month’s 10 Worst Suppliers”, replete with graphs and defect counts.

I can’t recall this methodology from any of my business school textbooks, and still not sure what to make of it. One way or another, it left an impression on me.  I bet it made an even greater impression on those 10 companies.

The recent Toyota crisis is not without its cultural hypotheses on the Japan side.  “The U.S. is bashing Toyota for displacing GM as #1.”  “Toyota’s failure stems from adopting too many foreign parts suppliers as part of its aggressive expansion”.

The Japan economy, stagnant the past 20 years, is in need of positive thinking.  I expect a turnaround with the change of generation, in 5-10 years time. My modest wish: on a future visit to this factory, I hope to see a Best Ten Suppliers List tacked up next to the Worst Ten.

Where the Americans are focussed on finance and bonuses and Obamacare – the Japanese are still focussed on quality and manufacturing – after having adopted Deming’s philosophy of Total Quality after WWII – the Americans are adrift on their own home turf, printing money to fund socialist public policy and setting world records in executive fraud and data security breaches.  The Japanese may need to have more positive thinking but in my opinion, the Americans need to get back to basics of innovation and quality manufacturing.

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