Toyota says: Have it your way

The world’s top automaker (the top 10 models in the U.S.) has found a way to adjust its manufacturing process so that you can get exactly the car you want–even if they hadn’t planned to build one for quite a while.

Just-in-time is a fact of life for most manufacturers today. Inefficiency costs car dealers–big–both in stagnant inventory and in lost sales because they don’t have the vehicle a customer wants (but some other dealer does). But carmakers haven’t been able to figure out a way to keep inventory down, supply specific models,  and still crank the cars off the line with maximum efficiency.

Now Toyota has solved the problem of quickly supplying any of the nearly 60,000 combinations of various options by installing software that connects dealers to factories and factories to suppliers. The system figures out, instantaneously, where they need to get parts and how they need to reorganize the assembly line to accommodate availability. And this article in Forbes goes on to talk about all the other specific ways Toyota has changed how they work to improve turnaround time and thus generate more business.

You know, I used to work in the car business a long time ago. I remember back then how impressed I was that Honda had sent representatives to scout the used car lots of America to look at the 3- and 4-year-old models of their cars–to find out what had gone wrong. Yes, that’s right. There were two little short Japanese guys visiting the used car lot asking if they could borrow the used vehicles on our lots to test them. Seems that Deming guy really did make an impact on the Japanese carmakers (see previous post).

In short, the Japanese carmaker is looking to build business by finding out how to serve the customer better. What a novel idea…

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