Toyota, the just-in-time spirit is alive and well

IE Focus | By Daisy Escobar, Professor at IE Business School

Toyota has been shaken to its very foundations by the mechanical faults detected in some of its models, but it has managed to react fast, with improvements that are reminiscent of its just-in-time breakthrough.A company with faulty products is nothing new. Situations in which the fault affects its products en masse are not quite so common, but the business annals now contain several notorious cases, some of which have been solved more successfully than others.

The problem is therefore not a new one. The difference lies in that it is happening to Toyota, the company renowned for manufacturing fault-free products, that demonstrated the cost of ´no quality´ and that continuously works to eliminate any kind of wastefulness. Indeed, the concept of faulty product is what the company focuses on most in order to eliminate it from its plants. Toyota invented the famous poka-yokes, the alarms and controls that warn of errors so that they can be corrected before they become faults, in other words, before they are found by customers.

The mechanical problem affecting the accelerator pedals on some of its models and the brake pedals on others has struck the very heart of Toyota´s ideology: its commitment to quality. The company has not had long to wait to feel the effects of the problem: more than ten million cars recalled for a service; around two million dollars in costs (estimated figure); and a somewhat tarnished image as far as its customers are concerned