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- Read the passage below and then answer the questions that follow.
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Of the several features or the Toyota Production System that have been widely studied, most important is the mode of governance of the shop-floor at Toyota. Work and inter-relations between workers are highly scripted in extremely detailed ‘operating procedures’ that have to be followed rigidly, without any deviation at Toyota. Despite such rule-bound rigidity, however, Toyota does not become a ‘command-control system’. It is able to retain the character of a learning organization.
In fact, many observers characterize it as a community of scientists carrying out several small experiments simultaneously. The design of the operating procedure is the key. Every principle must find an expression in the operating procedure – that is how it has an effect in the domain of action. Workers on the shop-floor, often in teams, design the ‘operating procedure’ jointly with the supervisor through a series of hypothesis that are proposed and validated or refuted through experiments in action. The rigid and detailed ‘operating procedure’ specification throws up problems of the very minute kind: while its resolution leads to a refraining of the procedure and specifications. This inter-temporal change (or flexibility) of the specification (or operating procedure) is done at the lowest level of the organization; i.e. closest to the site of action.
One implication of this arrangement is that system design can no longer be rationally optimal and standardized across the organization. It is quite common to find different work norms in contiguous assembly lines, because each might have faced a different set of problems and devised different counter measures to tackle it. Design of the coordinating process that essentially imposes the discipline that is required in large-scale complex manufacturing systems is therefore customized to variations in man-machine context of the site of action. It evolves through numerous points of negotiation throughout the organization. It implies then that the higher levels of the hierarchy do not exercise the power of the fiat in setting work rules, for such work rules are no longer a standard set across the whole organization.
It might be interesting to go through the basic Toyota philosophy that underlies its system designing practices. The notion of the ideal production system in Toyota embraces the following – ‘the ability to deliver just-in-time (or on demand) a customer order in the exact specification demanded, in a batch size of one (and hence an infinite proliferation of variants, models and specifications), defect-free, without wastage of material, labour, energy or motion in a safe and (physically and emotionally) fulfilling production environment’. It did not embrace the concept of a standardized product that can be cheap by giving up variations. Preserving consumption variety was seen, in fact, as one mode of serving society. It is interesting to note that the articulation of the Toyota philosophy was made around roughly the same time that the Fordist system was establishing itself in the US automotive industry.
Reading Comprehension: Passage 7
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Large scale complex manufacturing systems
Intellectual capita! of the company's management
Loans taken by the company from banks and financial institutions
Ability of workers to evolve solutions to problems
Skill and charisma of the top leadership
Existence of workers' union to protect worker's rights
Existence of powerful management to create unique strategies
Cordial worker-management relations to have industrial peace
High management involvement towards problems identified by workers
Management's faith in workers' abilities to solve problems in a rigorous manner
Workers have significant control lights over the design of work rules that allow worker skills and ingenuity to continuously search for novel micro-solutions using information that often sticks to the local micro-context of the work.
Managers have significant control rights over the design of work rules that allow worker skills and ingenuity to continuously search for novel micro-solutions around micro-information that often sticks to the local micro context of the work.
Work rules enable the workers to report problems faced at the shop-floor to specialized personnel who set up experiments lo replicate the conditions. This allows the specialists to come up with solutions that are rigorously tested in experimental conditions.
Toyota as an organization has extensive networks with different specialists who are subject matter experts in different fields. These networks allow problems to be resolved in the most advanced manner, enabling Toyota lo beat the competition.
Toyota's products are extensively tested by customers in simulated conditions before they are released to the market. This extensive testing is done by workers who double up as a community of scientists experimenting to develop the most advanced product.
Without such variations allowed, rights of manager to design work-rules would have made very little sense, making the company similar to Ford.
Proscribing standardised work norms would prevent Toyota from benefiting from workers' problem solving ability in resolving different kinds of problems that emerge, thus making it difficult to attain the Toyota philosophy.
If similarities were imposed, rights of workers to experiment with work-rules would have made very little sense.
Standardisation of work rules is only justified when the investments in plants are huge and experimenting with the work rules would be detrimental to the efficiency of the plants. Since Toyota's plants typically involved low investments, it could tolerate non standards work rules.
With standardization of processes, right of the workers in design of work-rules made sense. Since Toyota's manufacturing processes were non-standardised, the different work norms did not make sense.