Chosen Article: The Dark side of lean, Daniel Mehri
Chosen Industry: Automobile
Section 1: Discussion of Advice/Theory
Daniel Mehri worked as an engineer in a Toyota related company for three years. Mehri found his experience and observation of the day to day operation of the Toyota business to contrast starkly with how it had been portrayed by numerous publications. Up to that point almost all case studies published on the Toyota way celebrated the success of the Toyota Production System (TPS) and its approach to Lean Manufacturing. Very little criticism of the TPS existed and it was rapidly been heralded as the answer to rapidly improving tired manufacturing industries in western countries. Mehri‘s main arguments was that life in Toyota was not as positive as reported and that TPS contained many significant flaws. At the heart of Mehri’s findings was the concept that Toyota operated on two different levels. One level was an ideal which was communicated as a reality and which was not exposed due to the Japanese culture of “Tatemae”, the practice of presenting an ideal appearance. The second level was “Honne” where the reality of what one truly felt and experienced but rarely felt appropriate to share. As a consequence of these cultural issues, Toyota communicated and strived to maintain an ideal public image of their business. This included highlighting health and safety policies which were not actually operated and even ensuring victims of work place accidents continued to appear for work even if unfit to, so they would not be included in health and safety results. In addition to misrepresenting facts, the author also criticises Toyota for endangering its employees’ health and safety due to a production line which operated at a speed which was higher than humans could manage safely. Mehri also questions the belief that Toyota employees worked in a culture of widespread sharing of information and ground breaking innovation and development.
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