In Winning the Global Car War
Massachusetts institute of Technology (MIT) conducted an extensive study of the global car industry that compared operations at General Motors, Toyota, and the joint venture between GM and Toyota, the New United Motor Manufacturing Inc. (NUMMI) plaint in Fremont, California. The result of the study should raise some very disturbing questions about the quality and productivity of American operations, namely: •Why did GM’s Framingham plant require 31 hours to assemble a car when the Toyota plant only required 16 hours- or roughly half the time? •Why did the GM plant average 135 defects per car when Toyota had only 45 defects – or about one-third the numbers? •Why did GM require almost twice as much assembly space as the Toyota facility? •Why did GM require to a two-week parts inventory when Toyota only needed a two-hour supply of parts for its assembly line? As one might suspect, the cost of maintaining a large parts inventory inflates product costs.
Obviously GM did not fare well in the direct comparison to Toyota, but there are also signs of encouragement in the MIT study. Although American auto makers had fallen behind their foreign rivals, they have taken active steps to improve product quality and respond to customer wants. These companies have not been defeated; rather they have been revitalized by the competition.
GM joined forces with Toyota to create the NUMMI plant in order to improve the quality and efficiency of its manufacturing operations. The old GM plant in Fremont, California, was one of the car maker’s worst performing facilities before the NUMMI operation was initiated. As a result of the joint venture, assembly time has been greatly reduced and quality, measured in terms of total number of defects per car, has equaled the performance of Toyota in Japan.
Although assembly space is still relatively high by Japanese standards, NUMMI’s inventories have been reduced from...