Case Study about Model Changeovers in the Toyota Production System
Abstract: This article seeks to reconceptualize the relationship between ﬂexibility and efﬁciency. Much organization theory argues that efﬁciency requires bureaucracy, that bureaucracy impedes ﬂexibility, and that organizations therefore confront a tradeoff between efﬁciency and ﬂexibility. Some researchers have challenged this line of reasoning, arguing that organizations can shift the efﬁciency/ﬂexibility tradeoff to attain both superior efﬁciency and superior ﬂexibility.
Others have pointed out numerous obstacles to successfully shifting the tradeoff. Seeking to advance our understanding of these obstacles and how they might be overcome, we analyze an auto assembly plant that appears to be far above average industry performance in both efﬁciency and ﬂexibility. NUMMI, a Toyota subsidiary located in Fremont, California, relied on a highly bureaucratic organization to achieve its high efﬁciency. Analyzing two recent major model changes, we ﬁnd that NUMMI used four mechanisms to support its exceptional ﬂexib ility.
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