The Future Of Honda Manufacturing - strategy and planning
The 2001 Civic is the first vehicle to use Honda's new flexible manufacturing process. It's a bold vision, but is success really in the cards? For the past two decades, automakers around me world have analyzed Honda's manufacturing methods, visited its facilities, benchmarked its operations and copied its moves. During the late 1980s, Chrysler Corp. executives even talked openly about the "Honda study," which was a blatant effort to duplicate the best of the Japanese automaker's manufacturing techniques. But in fact, Honda typically obliged any competitor that wanted a first-hand look at its operations. Now that it has made the world comfortable with its old process, Honda is changing the rules. The genesis of its new flexible-manufacturing model goes back to the 1996 launch of the CR-V sport utility in Japan. Honda's Suzuka plant was the sole source of the new SUV, which proved to be an unanticipated, runaway success in its home market. Unable to produce enough volume to satisfy demand, Honda called on its then senior manufacturing engineer Masaki Iwai, a human dynamo nicknamed "the Tornado," to boost output. Iwai knew he could get more production from the nearby Sayama facility, but discovered that the plants were so inflexible and lacking in commonality that it took major retooling, long hours and many months to shift production from one plant to another. After Sayama's complicated conversion to the CR-V was finally finished, Iwai took action on the lesson he learned and set Honda on a course to reexamine its existing manufacturing philosophy. He cast doubts on Honda's oft-touted wisdom of retaining existing tooling and simply designing the next generation car to "build" within the limits of the equipment. He reasoned that, while it saved money on investment, it forever limited the flexibility of the line to build any other vehicle. Iwai's vision called for commonizing plants around the globe and...
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