Toyota Manufacturing: Case Study

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Executive Summary

In the highly competitive industry, Toyota seeks to manufacture or produce better cars for more consumers, thus, the platform to address divergence demand and supply within the shortest time possible. Besides, TMM engages in the production or manufacturing of excellent, quality automobiles while remaining competitive. Based on these practices, Toyota focuses on the development and implementation of an integrated approach to the production practices, which is the TPS. The integrated approach was ideal in enabling the institution to manage equipment, people, and materials effectively and efficiently. Moreover, the system ensured healthy and safe working environment for the employees. In this paper, the focus is on the evaluation of the potential options available to Doug in handling seats’ defects such as revising the seat design, attracting or contracting more suppliers, and improving the offline operational model to reduce cost and improve efficiency in the production.


Toyota has been able to develop its reputation based on Just-in-Time production. Nonetheless, this approach comes out as a building block regarding the larger production philosophy, Toyota Production System (TPS). The case provides a platform for understanding the concept of TPS, as well as its application to the specific issue. On 1 May 1992, Doug Friesen, as the manager of the assembly at the company’s Georgetown, Kentucky plant, highlights his concern about the problems with the seat installation. He tends to wonder on the most effective and efficient approaches to solve the problem, thus, the dilemma in the determination of which solution he should prioritize. Since sales are converging towards plant aptitude, it is ideal for Friesen to pick the actual path in the midst of TPS, as well as the realisms relating to the plant business (Mishina 4). At first glance of the case, the problems tend to emanate from the defective or damaged seats. The TMM USA’s problem regarding seats tends to manifest in three aspects.

In the first instance, there is the actual defect with the hooks resulting from cross threading by the workers in the course of seats’ installation. This problem did create the platform for the occurrence of the second issue regarding the retreat from the TPS when handling with the seat defect. Instead of fixing the issue with the seat fixing during its occurence, the company sought to continue with the production of the cars, thus, the platform to worry about the seats’ issue afterward. The decision did contribute to the third problem, which relates to the building of the cars with the seat issues, especially in the off-line operation area. The discussion questions offer the platform for the assessment of the use of TPS in the Toyota Company, the issues resulting from the increase in the Camry seat options, and the relationship between the company and KFS (Kentucky Framed Seats) as the seat supplier to Toyota.

Background Information

In the highly competitive automotive industry, Toyota sought to manufacture or produce better cars for more consumers, thus, the platform to address divergence demand and supply within the shortest time possible. In the course of producing or manufacturing excellent, quality automobiles and remain competitive, Toyota focused on the development and implementation of an integrated approach to the production practices. The integrated approach was ideal in enabling the institution to manage equipment, people, and materials effectively and efficiently. Moreover, the system ensured healthy and safe working environment for the employees, thus, the essence of the TPS. The system tends to incorporate two main principles.

In the first instance, there is the ‘Just-in-Time’ production relating to the process of developing and transference of only what is necessary, at the right time, and appropriate quantity. Secondly, TPS integrates ‘Jidoka’ as the second principle concerning the ability to halt manufacture lines through workers or machines in the context of equipment fault or excellence issues, as well as delayed work. The second principle was ideal in enabling prevention of the passage of defects while facilitating identification and handling of the problematic areas through isolation and localization. The approach was ideal in enabling the institution to build quality brands in the production process. Evidently, the management philosophy relates to the tendency of integrating creativity and effective thinking in the production of quality products.

Analysis of the Case Study

Based on the case information, TMM has diverse issues in April 1992 regarding the run rationing of the plant. In this aspect, the company had the platform to ration its capacity from 95 percent to 85 percent. One of the implications of this rationing was the decrease or shortfall of the car production, thus, shortage of 45 cars during each shift. In the course of overcoming this issue, employees had to work overtime in the production or manufacturing process. Moreover, several cars desired off-line operations of unique nature prior proceeding to the shipping process. The focal cause of the problematic situation was the seats’ flaws based on improper installation in the cars. There are two major elements regarding the seat defects. These elements did emanate from KFS concerning the material faults, as well as solution efforts.

On the other hand, the seat bolster issue comes out as a distant third. Since KFS is one of the responsible parties, it would be appropriate to consider addressing the situation needs at their site. Based on this approach, it would be ideal for Doug to consider visiting KFS with the intention of inspecting the production or manufacturing, as well as quality control process. In this aspect, the unveiling issues at the sources of the seats, KFS, would be critical in the eradication of the problems at the TMM plant (Spear 81). For instance, the focus on the quality control at the supplier would be appropriate in enabling the institution to eliminate numerous problems in Toyota manufacturing. In the short-term, Doug would also consider addressing the current issue regarding backlog through reconciling orders with the supplier.

In the case of the products, cars, with seat issues, the car was able to overcome quality checks on the assembly line with the defective seat. Toyota sought to drive the car to Code 1 clinic area with the intention of determining whether the problem was correctable in that critical area. When the issue demanded a replacement or reinstallation of the seat, the car would relocate to overflow space area to for the delivery of the fresh seat from the provider. It is essential to note that the routine was an exception based on the QC process at Toyota Motor Manufacturing (TMM).

In the context of TMM, the TPS principles were essential in unveiling production issues or problems as self-evident, thus, the platform for terminating the production upon detection of any problem. In the case of the defective seats, as evident in the case information, there were critical reasons for an exception at TMM. One of the critical reasons was the prior knowledge by the final assembly workers concerning the problem at hand. Secondly, there was an exception when it was possible or likely to finish construction or building of the car in the absence of the seat assemblies (Haywood 155). Thirdly, it was exceptional when TMM felt the high cost of stopping the line based on the time or duration of obtaining the replacement seat. It is essential to note that seat set was the most expensive part of all the elements under procurement by TMM.

Based on the case information, Kentucky Framed Seat (KFS) was the sole supplier. The supplier teamed up effectively and efficiently with the TMM’s operations before the proliferation of the products by TMM. The seat styles did increase from three styles with the four colors to about 18 styles because of the proliferation. In spite of the ability of the contractor to transform the cars experiencing the seat defects, the issue was a chief concern for the assembly plant, especially in 1992. Besides, Doug should concentrate on the legality of the exclusion regarding the faulty seats, as well as organization between the supplier and the plant. According to the information on the case, KFS sought to develop the special delivery of the replacements twice a week. Nonetheless, the platform could not address the backlog since cars were waiting for the new seats for more than four days.

There were occasional incidents or issues of cross threading in which team members shot bolts at an angle before secure fixation by the important leaders. Alternatively, there were critical incidents, which would damage the seat covering with the hand tools. One of the group leaders sought to report the hook breakage issue, which would derivate assembly process. Evidently, Doug, as the manager of the assembly, should prioritize identification of the processes, which might need improvement. Secondly, Doug should collect more data or information concerning the problems through interviewing the workers or personnel appropriate in pursuit of efficiency in addressing the problem. Thirdly, he should engage in analyzing the data to identify potential gaps regarding current outputs and standards.

As the assembly manager, Doug tends to have various or several options at his disposal. Based on the case information, it is possible to note that the problems tend to emerge following the proliferation of the number of seats from three to eighteen styles in the case of Toyota Motor Manufacturing. In spite of operating as a part of the assembly line, KFS could not prevent the cars from having seat defects as evident in the number of all seat parts undergoing detection through the line (Haywood 156). There is no information on the case, which highlights the essence of the problem or defects based on the delivered products by the supplier to the plant. Critically, it is ideal to assume that the defects emerge during the assembly.

From this perspective, Doug has one of the options of revising the seat assembly team with the objective of enhancing effectiveness and efficiency. Similarly, it is possible for Doug to engage in redesigning or improving off-line operations upon making decisions to continue with correcting the seats off-line. It is also ideal for the manager to consider the critical evaluation of the overwork, which the plant following the approach by TMM to become the sole source regarding Camry wagons for the first time for Toyota worldwide. Based on these issues, it is appropriate to recommend the following actions concerning TMM and the role or influence of Doug as the assembly manager in handling the seats problems or defects.


Redesign Seats

In this aspect, it is critical for Doug to consider revising the seat design with the intention of controlling the assembly defects. Based on the information by Shirley Sargent, one of the potential issues on the seat was the sharp edge, which made it difficult for the assembly team to achieve its goals and targets. Critically, it is valuable for Toyota Motor Manufacturing to listen to such positive feedback in the course of revising the seat design for efficiency in addressing the defects. Revising the seat design would be ideal in enabling the institution to monitor and improve chances of success for the production process.


Based on the case information, KFS is the sole supplier of the seats to TMM. In the course of addressing the issues concerning the seat defects, it is essential for Doug to initiate the approach attracting more suppliers, thus, the opportunity to have the multi-suppliers model. The approach will contribute to the alleviation of the burden of the sole supplier working on the 18 different seat styles following the proliferation of the styles by TMM. Obviously, proliferation or expansion of the styles, from three to eighteen, by TMM was the onset of the seat defect.

From this perspective, integration of several suppliers would play a critical role in enabling the institution to help solve the problem while enhancing efficiency and specialization among the suppliers concerning different seat styles. Moreover, several suppliers would play critical roles in the improvement of the level of competition while addressing the needs and expectations of the consumers based on the innovative practices by each supplier. Several suppliers would also contribute to the reduction of the costs of operation while eliminating or clearing the backlog, thus, the opportunity to enable TMM to alleviate the burden from KFS, as well as eradicate overwork model among the employees.

Transformation of Offline Operations

Thirdly, it is recommendable for the assembly manager to engage in revising off-line operations with the intention of avoiding overtime work, which is costly for the TMM in pursuit of its goals and targets. In this context, TMM should consider changing its operation model because of ineffectiveness or inefficiency of the Clinic Area, as well as the Overflow Parking Area to address the demands and expectations of the mass problem. These recommendations have the ability and potentiality to enhance the prowess and expertise of the assembly manager in addressing the problem. This is because the high level of the offline vehicle inventory has negative implications on the sales, as well as JIT principle of the TMM. Furthermore, it is essential to highlight the relationship between the long-term quality and efficiency of the different steps of the production.


Conclusively, the paper focused on the exploration of the seats defects or issues affecting TMM it is production and manufacturing. According to the findings of the paper, the issues did emerge following the proliferation of the styles. Moreover, KFS comes out as the sole supplier of the seats, which come out as the most expensive procured asset. In the course of addressing this issue, Doug should focus on integrating the recommended options such as revising the seats design, adopting several suppliers to overcome the burden from the proliferated styles, and improvement of the offline operations.

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