The Myth of Japanese Efficiency
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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.
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Chapter 8: The Totalizing Myth: Japanese Efficiency as a Cultural Fiction

Dan Coffey


LEAN THINKING, LEAN INITIATIVES US Air War College Military Index to the Internet 8.1 INTRODUCTION The opening chapter of this book commences with a proposition about a thoroughgoing non-correspondence between what is claimed on behalf of production practices purportedly developed by Toyota and other Japanese firms operating in the car manufacture and assembly sector, and what can be demonstrated. This in turn is a prelude to questions that might be summarized thus: what does this mean? In framing the issues which it has been our intent to raise in this way, we are obviously interested in more than car manufacture and assembly as a specific set of activities; but this is simply to acknowledge the peculiar status that is accorded this industry. If our purview extended no further than manufacture as such, it would still be immediately apparent to even the most casual reader of the accumulated wisdom of the past 20 or so years that the car industry has been cast in a broad role, both as a leading industry and an emblem of change in the mature industrial economies. And if our purview extends to include writers with an avowedly deeper intent – writers amongst whose ranks might be included not only representatives of the social sciences but also many self-proclaimed apostles of the lean and the flexible – it is clear that the car industry stands here also as social metaphor, a place of signs and wonders. It might certainly be observed in this connection that ‘as it is...

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