The Myth of Japanese Efficiency

The Myth of Japanese Efficiency

The World Car Industry in a Globalizing Age

Dan Coffey

Combining case studies with accessible but rigorous production models and historical background, this provocative book challenges accepted views on Japanese production methods in the world car industry. The book argues that the ‘lean and flexible’ production model popularly associated with Toyota MC is a myth, but one which sheds light on cultural responses to the attendant stresses of globalization. To illustrate this, Dan Coffey provides individual studies of process flexibility, labour productivity and the re-organization of work in the global car industry.

Chapter 7: Rethinking Lean Thinking: Substance and Counterfeit

Dan Coffey

Subjects: business and management, critical management studies, international business, economics and finance, industrial economics, international business, international economics


All that remains is for enough investors, managers, and employees, like the change agent heroes of these pages, and – we hope – you the reader, to create a vast movement, in North America, Europe, Japan, and every other region, which relentlessly applies lean thinking to create value and banish muda. (Womack and Jones 1996, 2003: 295) 7.1 INTRODUCTION In this penultimate chapter we pause to review on the basis of our preceding arguments the book Lean Thinking by James P. Womack and Daniel T. Jones, published as a conceptual guide to key production concepts for lean production. This book has recently been reissued in an extended second edition, but all of the material published in the first edition has been retained and the original pagination has been left intact (a thoughtful consideration), so that more recent propositions can be separated from earlier arguments. Hence reference will be made to both editions simultaneously – to Womack and Jones (1996, 2003) – unless the material under discussion appears only in chapters added to the later edition. The book is of interest in part because it is a best-seller – with over 300,000 copies sold, according to the authors, in English alone (see Womack and Jones 2003: 5) – aimed at a practitioner audience. The significance of this work, commercial success apart, also resides in the fact that its authors comprise two-thirds of the triad who wrote The Machine that Changed the World, that is, Womack et al. (1990) – another best-seller and the book which first launched...

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