What Ails Toyota?As my last post about Toyota noted, recent quality problems at the company have raised questions about whether The Toyota Way needs repair.
An August 25 Wall Street Journal report suggests that the spate of recalls is due to engineering issues, as opposed to production faults.
In order to develop and launch new models more rapidly, the company has been depending more than in the past on computer-aided design (CAD). Once aspect of this approach is cutting the number of physical prototypes used for testing from 60 to fewer than 20. This may have allowed relatively subtle problems to go undetected.
Toyota has now decreed a slowdown in the development timetable, which, among other things, will allow for additional physical prototypes and more thorough testing.
There is also some suggestion that using parts suppliers not part of the long-time circle of suppliers in Japan has introduced quality issues that need analysis and correction.
According to Business Week, Toyota asserts its continuous improvement (kaizen) processes have enabled it to promptly address the steering problem that has been the reason for the largest recalls (though, obviously, changes made in production only affect newly manufactured cars).
I will continue to watch for updates on Toyota's quality issues. So far, it appears that The Toyota Way is robust enough to manage both minor and not-so-minor engineering and parts acquisition problems.