The methodology that an increasing number of companies are using to accomplish such a business strategy is the implementation of the Toyota Production System (TPS), also called lean manufacturing.
Lean Manufacturing is best defined as a management philosophy that focuses on reducing waste in all business processes. Although it originates from a time when the Toyota of today was a manufacturer of power looms, in its modern form, lean was pioneered by Toyota Motor Co. in the 1950's, when it dared compete with U.S. automakers who at the time dominated a seemingly impenetrable U.S. automobile market.
Like many Japanese manufacturers of the time, Toyota realized that to compete in America, it would need to produce high quality product in very short lead-times. This was a requirement to both profitably react to customer demand, as well as float the cash needed to finance the asset poor company.
Around this time, Mr. Eiji Toyoda, the nephew of the company's founder, tasked Taichi Ohno, a twenty year veteran of the company, to become a part of the solution. Inspired by a diverse range of inputs ranging from Fords mass production environment to American grocery stores, over the next decade the Toyota Production System was born. Although certainly not the sole force behind the new manufacturing philosophy, so instrumental was Mr. Ohno in its creation that he is widely considered the father of TPS.
Fast forwarding to the 1980's, as the U.S. market share of Japanese vehicles began to rise at an astonishing rate, American companies took notice and attempted to emulate Toyota's...