Keywords: comparison of ford and toyota philosophies
A manufacturing/production system consists of a conversion system, which transforms inputs into output. The way conversion is done depends upon the nature of product/service and the nature of demand for such product/service. Thus the types of production are broadly classified into two categories, the continuous and the intermittent. The first category is appropriate where large scale production is required and the second is suitable where demand is non-uniform and seasonal and the product is not standardized.
Ford Motors, as it is poised for mass producing standardized automobiles, naturally embraced the continuous production system. This essay attempts to compare and contrast the production philosophies and systems adopted by Ford Motors during 1930s and Toyota Motor Company during recent times.
As Kanigal, Robert  laid the basis for the concept of assembly line, Henry Ford, adopted the concept in1914 with due consideration to Adam Smith's philosophy of division of labour. He over simplified the tasks which led to specialization and business success (William A. Levinson, 2009). On the other hand, Toyota, which emerged as a different socio-industrial system, ironically had its roots in Henry Ford's philosophy (James P.Womack, Daniel T.Jones, Daniel Roos, 2007)
However, TMC digressed from the traditional Detroit philosophy based on the concept of lean manufacturing and thus carved a niche for itself and grew to such an extent that the American automobile industry shook.
Henry Ford's Contribution
Earlier, cars were a specialized luxury, available only to the elite. Ford's mass production scheme made the automobile accessible for the common man even, by virtue of Ford's vision, "a car for every man." This philosophy got extended to the whole range of consumer products and services which came into the reach of every common man.
Henry Ford's team nurtured innovation in all the 4 'P's (Product, Process, Position and Paradigm) to happen concurrently. The T-Model, which Ford and his team evolved formed the basis for emergence of an altogether completely new realm of thinking as regards manufacturing, which resulted in elimination of need for skilled labour (Joe Tidd, John Bessant, 2009). Though the basic elements existed earlier, Ford's success lay in synthesizing them into a new form. The philosophy encompassed not only assembly operations, but supply chain and logistical aspects also.
Features of Ford System of Manufacturing
Standardization of products, components, equipment, process, tasks and tasks of control.
Time and work study, to identify the optimum conditions for carrying out a particular operation and job analysis, to break up the task into small, highly controllable and reproducible steps.
Specialization of functions and tasks within all areas of operation .there was considerable narrowing and re-utilization of individual tasks and an extension of division of labor.
Uniform output rates and systematization of the entire manufacturing process.
Payments and incentive schemes based on results.
Elimination of worker discretion and passing of control to specialists.
Concentration of control of work into the hands of management within a bureaucratic hierarchy with extensive reliance on rules and procedures.
The Toyota production philosophy
The system of production which, though had its roots in that of Ford Motors, has evolved as a distinctive one with unique features such as lean manufacturing, is known as Toyota Production System [TPS]. Sakichi Toyoda, his son, Kiichiro Toyoda and Taiichi are the founders of Toyota Motors. The founders and the engineer, Taiichi Ohno are the ones who appreciated and embraced the concept of Lean Manufacturing, founded on the original concept, being, JIT production (Sorensen, 1956).
The founders of Toyota based heavily on the work of Edward Deming and the literature written by Henry Ford. Lean manufacturing (Simon, 1996) concept was even seen during the times of Benjamin Franklin.
The business success and opulence of Detroit drove the Toyota team to be inquisitive about witnessing the assembly line and mass production. When the Toyotan delegation visited the US, they were not impressed. The Toyotan philosophy (Shigeo, 1996) aims at rationalizing the design of the manufacturing process and so it envisages elimination of three elements, being overburden [muri], inconsistency [mura] and waste [muda]. This entails that the process is flexible enough to be free from stress as it is supposed to generate waste. The Toyota system identified seven types of wastes, popularly called the "Seven Wastes." They are over-production, motion (of operator or machine), waiting (of operator or machine), conveyance, processing itself, inventory (raw material), and correction (rework and scrap)
Of the three lapses, i.e. overburden, inconsistency and waste, the latter, muda, seems to dominate the thinking of man as they see the fruitful effects of TPS.
Origin of the concept of TPS
It is known that Toyota Motor Company has got its inspiration not from the Detroit Philosophy, but rather from their observations made on their visit to the US in 1950s. The Toyota delegation first visited the automotive plants of Ford Motor Company located in Michigan. But they convicted that many methods adopted by the industry leaders were not satisfactory or effective. Some of the lapses they identified were:
large amounts of inventory on site,
the way the work was performed in various departments - uneven pattern, i.e., with intervention of waiting between one operation and another operation resulting in islands of idleness,
re-work in huge quantities at the end of the process.
Later, the Toyotan delegation visited Piggly-Wiggly, the supermarket and observed how inventory management was carried out. The supermarket maintained scanty amounts of stock sufficient to cater to the customers and its employees for a short duration, stocks were reordered and instantly replenished. This indicated an important dimension, i.e., eliminating the need to maintain huge stocks and it was all done just-in-time. Taking cue from this philosophy, many US businesses made a direct attack on high inventory levels but ended in fiasco. This was because the American businesses did not understand the underlying issues. A principle of maintaining low levels of inventory also implies that proper alignment should be made with the vendors such that they were in a position to supply materials and components just-in-time. A complete delineation with the entire supply chain is necessary. This important aspect was ignored by the American automobile industry. It cannot be achieved overnight. Toyotans admitted that it took 20 years for them to implement JIT programme.
Tenets of Toyotan Philosophy
Challenge: Work without challenge makes people indolent and lackadaisical and nonchalant.
Kaizen: Capabilities, skills, efficiency and the like are not constant. They keep improving over time. Hence benchmarks need to be revised constantly. Innovativeness is a natural propensity.
Genchi Genbutsu: Try to find the root cause before making correction of the apparent defects.
RESPECT FOR PEOPLE
Respect: Others must be respected. There should be mutual understanding and a readiness to accept responsibility to build mutual trust.
Team work: Working together to achieve organizational and individual objectives through commitment.
Short-term goals are mere derivatives of the long-term ones and the former are dependent on the latter and hence, priority shall be given to pursue/revise long-term goals.
THE RIGHT PROCESS PRODUCES THE RIGHT RESULTS
Creation of a continuous process flow facilitates inherent problems to be apparent at surface. Lacunae, if any, will come to surface; unevenness in loading of work stations will be indicated. Adopting "pull system of production" prevents overproduction. Under pull system of production, production scheduling is not done for large scale manufacturing. Master production schedule is made based on the current orders on hand. Once these orders are processed, the production process is stalled and rescheduled upon receiving new orders. Thus, products are pulled out of the system by customers.