Weep, Deming, Weep: Why US Automakers Can’t Learn

Is Deming crying?
It seems like the US Auto industry is intent on destroying itself. See for example, Doug Smith’s “Removing The Deck Chairs From The Titanic”. Smith says:
“GM still doesn’t ‘get it’ when it comes to the value side of it’s products. As previously noted, GM invested heavily in product design and manufacturing flexibility — that is, the capacity to move quicker to provide new products. It can now bring 15 new products to market quicker than ever before. And, what are the deck chair managers doing with this flexibility. 13 of the new products will be re-designs of full size SUVS.”
What is wrong with these people? What happened to Deming’s 14 points? It was Deming who said: “If you want to ruin a company, send it American management”
So what’s going on? IndustryWeek‘s John Teresko talks about the Toyota Way, and asks two questions:
1) How does Japan’s leading automaker keep getting better?
2) What keeps competitors from emulating that performance?
While U.S. manufacturers in many sectors have used practices from the Toyota Production System (TPS) to boost performance substantially since the mid-’80s, they have used it improperly, experts say. Instead of embracing TPS as an overarching philosophy, they have used it piecemeal as a toolbox. These companies’ leaders must revive their strategies to mimic Toyota’s in order to compete, which means reversing the popular notion that lean and other TPS-derived concepts are tools to be used selectively to achieve departmental milestones.
Read the whole thing. Look for this fun quote: “cost reduction is not a strategy unless you want to commoditize or go out of business.”
P.S.- For those of you who have forgotten Deming, here are his 14 points:
1. Create constancy of purpose toward improvement of product and service, with the aim to become competitive and to stay in business, and to provide jobs.
2. Adopt the new philosophy. We are in a new economic age. Western management must awaken to the challenge, must learn their responsibilities, and take on leadership for change.
3. Cease dependence on inspection to achieve quality. Eliminate the need for inspection on a mass basis by building quality into the product in the first place.
4. End the practice of awarding business on the basis of price tag. Instead, minimize total cost. Move toward a single supplier for any one item, on a long-term relationship of loyalty and trust.
5. Improve constantly and forever the system of production and service, to improve quality and productivity, and thus constantly decrease costs.
6. Institute training on the job.
7. Institute leadership. The aim of supervision should be to help people and machines and gadgets to do a better job. Supervision of management is in need of overhaul, as well as supervision of production workers.
8. Drive out fear, so that everyone may work effectively for the company (see Ch. 3).
9. Break down barriers between departments. People in research, design, sales, and production must work as a team, to foresee problems of production and in use that may be encountered with the product or service.
10. Eliminate slogans, exhortations, and targets for the work force asking for zero defects and new levels of productivity. Such exhortations only create adversarial relationships, as the bulk of the causes of low quality and low productivity belong to the system and thus lie beyond the power of the work force.
– Eliminate work standards (quotas) on the factory floor. Substitute leadership.
– Eliminate management by objective. Eliminate management by numbers, numerical goals. Substitute leadership.
11. Remove barriers that rob the hourly worker of his right to pride of workmanship. The responsibility of supervisors must be changed from sheer numbers to quality.
12. Remove barriers that rob people in management and in engineering of their right to pride of workmanship. This means, inter alia, abolishment of the annual or merit rating and of management by objective.
13. Institute a vigorous program of education and self-improvement.
14. Put everybody in the company to work to accomplish the transformation. The transformation is everybody’s job.

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