Essay on Business Operations Toyota

Published: 2021/11/05
Number of words: 3733

Table of Contents

Ways in which Toyota Can Introduce Company-wide operations improvement strategy3
Total Quality Management4
Focus on Customers4
Continuous Improvement5
Total Participation5
How Toyota Company can refine the TQM Process5
The Kaizen Process5
The five whys7
Thinking People System7
How Toyota Company can refine the Kaizen Process8
Operational Strategies that Ford and GM can implement to gain a market share from Toyota10


Since 2009, Toyota Company has been forced to recall more than 10 million vehicles. At the same time, the firm’s sales in the US have plummeted. The main reason why the firm recalled its vehicles were quality concerns raised by the customers (Camuffo and Wilhelm 2016). For example, in 2014, when Toyota Company recalled circa 1.75 million vehicles globally, it was because the customers complained that the vehicles had brake problems and other glitches that posed a fire risk (Camuffo and Wilhelm 2016). In the same period, when Toyota Company faced quality concerns over its line of vehicles, other companies such as Ford and GM continually produced better, superior and high quality vehicles (Hellen and Darling 2012). Arguably, this is surprising for a company that often gets considered as the first to implement total quality management practices in its operations. Toyota’s chief executive attributed the surge in the quality concerns raised on Toyota vehicles to the rapid growth experienced by the company (Tennert 2014). In 2007, Toyota overtook GM as the world’s largest automobile manufacturer (Tennert 2014). However, the rapid expansion experienced by the company should not get used as an excuse for its vehicle’s quality shortcomings. This report presents a robust discussion on how company-wide operations improvement strategy can be introduced into the Toyota Company. The paper also evaluates the strategies that can be used by Ford and GM to gain the market share lost by Toyota.

Ways in which Toyota Can Introduce Company-wide operations improvement strategy

Toyota Company is one of the companies that have comprehensive and well-developed quality management frameworks such as the Kaizen process, TQM, six sigmas and 5S among others (Tennert 2014). These systems have taken an extended period to implement fully at Toyota. Besides, the systems have been ingrained in the Toyota Company culture; for instance, the Kaizen process often gets referred to as the ‘Toyota way’. The frameworks have also catapulted Toyota Company to the largest automobile maker in the world. Therefore, it would be illogical to initiate companywide operations that conflict with these frameworks. Toyota Company CEO cited that the surge in quality concerns raised about Toyota Company can be attributed to the rapid expansion that the company has experienced over the years (Tennert 2014).

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Consequently, one can infer that the company is not training its new employees fully on the philosophies of Kaizen and Total Quality management that catapulted Toyota Company to one of the biggest automobile makers in the world. The current work climate is also different from that of the 1970s when Toyota was implementing the TQM and Kaizen process systems. Because of this, the best way that Toyota can implement company-wide operations improvement strategy is by refining further the TQM and the Kaizen process.

Total Quality Management

Total Quality Management refers to an approach that gears at improving quality and performance to meet the needs of the clients. TQM increasingly became popular in the 1980s; however it had originated in the 1950s (Ross 2017). The main aim of TQM is to attain the best standards and metrics in the various aspects of a business. Although TQM can assume multiple forms, there are some fundamental principles that define it (Ross 2017). In particular, these are continuous improvement, employee engagement and focus on the customers (Ross 2017).

Focus on Customers

Arguably, the main essence of enhancing quality is to obtain customer satisfaction. According to TQM, companies should not restrict themselves to quality improvement through only the upgrading of after-sales services and product quality. Instead, they ought to transform themselves into companies that foster employee satisfaction and pleasure, aiming at enhancing customer satisfaction (Ross 2017). This is because customer satisfaction is an aggregate of the various things that every worker does in the work place (Ross 2017). Therefore, companies can improve customer satisfaction by focussing on enhancing the employee satisfaction.

Continuous Improvement

The TQM process in Toyota Company is renowned for its emphasis on continuous improvement. The company continually seeks various ways through which it can enhance its operations. Continuous improvement is a product of a workplace that promotes high employee motivation, morale and satisfaction (Ross 2017). For a long time, Toyota Company employees have been renowned for their desire to continually learn, adapt and solve various problems in the workplace. The employees at Toyota Company are both passionate and focussed on growth and improvement (Ross 2017).

Total Participation

In Toyota Company, total participation means that all the employees are involved in the realisation of the company’s goals and objectives. Total participation can be regarded as a workforce management strategy that promotes a corporate culture of cooperation and collaboration (Ross 2017).

How Toyota Company can refine the TQM Process

The Kaizen Process

The Kaizen process is arguably synonymous with Toyota. It is a Japanese word that means being fully aware of what can be improved in an enterprise, how it can be improved, and the employees who can contribute to the improvement. Kaizen is critical to the Toyota way or Lean operations. Unlike other continuous improvement processes that use either top-down edicts or radical changes to initiate transformation, Kaizen relies on cooperation, collaboration, and commitment from all the workers (Stewart 2018). Toyota developed the Kaizen process intending to eliminate waste, minimise defects, boosting productivity, promoting innovation and encouraging employee accountability (Stewart 2018). In Toyota, the Kaizen process is enshrined in three key principles: five’s (5S), Thinking People System and five whys.


5S refers to the Japanese words Seiton, Seiri, Shitsuke, Seiso, and Seiketsu (Stewart 2018). The English translations of these words are: sustain, standardise, shine, set in order, and sort. Toyota encourages their employees to employ the 5S principles not only in their work but also in their lives (Stewart 2018). Seiri (sort) refers to the elimination of all the items that are not needed in the workplace. However, for sort to work, it is imperative to define first what is not needed in the workplace. After the unnecessary items have got removed in the workplace, they subsequently get subjected to a further review, where it gets determined what will get done to them. Seiton (set in order) principally refers to the classification of all the needed items into their correct places. In Toyota, each tool has a specific place of storage. For Toyota, this step is critical since all the tools that the employees need should be readily available and accessible for use.

Seiso (shine) refers to the cleaning of the various tools used in the manufacturing process every day. The main aim of Seiso is usually to not only clean but also to avoid dirt. The cleaning of the various parts used not only brings order in the company’s operations but also demonstrates some sense of responsibility to the environment. Seiketsu (standardise) seeks to make the steps delineated above a company habit. In a bid to ensure the standardisation of its processes, Toyota continually engages in initiatives geared at creating awareness on the 5S and establishing precise rules that the employees should follow out in carrying out the 5S (Stewart 2018). Lastly, Shitsuke (sustain) refers to self-discipline. This means that all the employees at Toyota should continuously apply 5s to improve the company’s processes.

The five whys

Toyota Company continually encourages its workers to be involved in the formulation and development of new ideas so that they can create the best solutions to the various challenges and issues encountered in the workplace (Suh 2017). The Kaizen process requires the continuous assessment and application of logic in determining what should get done (Suh 2017). As a result, every planned improvement usually gets evaluated with the ‘question ‘why?

The five whys system became more popular in the 1970s as Toyota embarked on finding solutions to the various problems that the firm faced (Suh 2017). The five whys system is premised on the idea that the solution to a problem is usually based on an idea that further takes you to another ‘why,’ and so on. In Toyota, different techniques are used in developing the five whys. The most common ones are the tabular format and the Ishikawa diagram. The Ishikawa diagram presents a graphical representation of the causes of a given problem. And it is usually aimed at discovering the solution to a given problem.

Thinking People System

The Kaizen process depends on not only the company experts but also on every person at the company. Arguably, this is because Toyota believes that every employee can contribute to the company’s success through his/her skills and knowledge. TPS also not only allows the workers to do their assigned tasks but also to devise solutions to the company’s problems (Suh 2017). Partly, this why in all the mornings at Toyota Company, there are usually reunions that gear at understanding the needs of the employees better.

TPS also calls for employees in Toyota to be fully aware of the importance of the various activities that they perform in the company. TPS also calls for the employees to think about why various procedures are performed in the company (Suh 2017). Overall, TPS makes Toyota Company employees feel valued and appreciated.

How Toyota Company can refine the Kaizen Process

Undoubtedly, the greatest challenge that the Kaizen process presents to companies is that it requires high level of commitment from both the employees and management for it to work. In cases where the employees are not fully committed, the Kaizen process is bound to fail. This can be said to be the case at Toyota Company. The substantial increase in Toyota Company’s workforce means that not all of the employees are committed to the the Kaizen process. Toyota Company can elicit increased commitment from the workers by educating them on the importance of the the Kaizen process. In particular, the senior management should assist all the employees to both recognise and appreciate the role of the Kaizen process in catapulting Toyota Company to one of the largest automobile manufacturers in the world currently.

Arguably, the Kaizen process has allowed the Toyota Company to reap innumerable benefits. Notably, the process has helped Toyota Company improve on efficiency and work satisfaction, foster innovation, and creativity, and reduce waste, among others. Agreeably, the Kaizen process has been a crucial pillar in Toyota’s market share expansion (Ross 2017). However, in the last few months, Toyota has had to recall more than nine million vehicles, and this necessitates a rethinking of its Kaizen process.

Firstly, Toyota Company needs to realise that it is challenging to implement the Kaizen process into other existing systems. In the last few years, Toyota Company has been involved in a series of mergers and acquisitions. The company has subsequently tried to indiscriminately implement the Kaizen process into the operations of the acquired firms, which has proved considerably problematic (Bowen and Zheng 2015). Implementing the Kaizen process requires the complete transformation of an enterprise’s management systems. Arguably, this is what has proved a big hurdle to Toyota as the company has constantly tried to implement the Kaizen process in the acquired firms (Bowen and Zheng 2015). In this regard, Toyota Company needs to allow for an open communication process as it implements the Kaizen process in the acquired entities. It should allow the employees of the ‘acquired firms and business’ to provide their views on the need for implementing the Kaizen process.

There is also a need for Toyota Company to retrain its workers on the Kaizen process. The more than nine million vehicles that Toyota has had to recall in the last few months have been because of quality concerns. Ironically, the Kaizen process gears at bolstering the quality of Toyota company vehicles. This shows that the employees are not well trained in the Kaizen process (Bowen and Zheng 2015). Toyota Company can organise for some of the employees to go out and take extra training on the kaizen process. The company can also ensure that new employees undergo training on the kaizen philosophy in addition to their usual training.

Besides, because of the voluminous and involving nature of the Kaizen training, most of the employees usually find it tiring and tedious learning the Kaizen process under a considerably smaller time frame. Toyota Company can extend the amount of time allocated to training employees on the kaizen process (Stewart 2018). Conclusively, this will ensure that the employees are familiar with all the practical details of the Kaizen process. The short period allocated to training employees on the Kaizen process meant that most of them did not grasp the philosophy well. As a result, it was difficult for them implementing the Kaizen philosophy since it is challenging for an individual to implement a concept that he/she does not understand well.

The ‘five why’s tenet’ that underpins the Kaizen process has some components that need to be refined. Notably, the five why’s encourages individuals to find the root cause of a given problem. By encouraging the employees to find the root cause of the problem, this means that they may leave out other factors that might also have contributed to the given problem (Andrews et al., 2011). This can be linked to the myriads of quality concerns that Toyota Company has faced in the last few years. Toyota has had difficulties in remedying the problems because the company’s focus has been on the root causes of the given problems. In this regard, Toyota Company needs to adopt a wholesome approach in searching for solutions to the problems it faces (Andrews et al., 2011). Admittedly, this will only require a slight adjustment of the five why process. This will allow Toyota Company to discover other solutions, causes and factors that the company might have otherwise missed if it continued using the ‘five why’s’ unadulterated.

Although the Kaizen process is enshrined on employee cooperation, collaboration, and involvement, this is not entirely the case in Toyota Company. The Kaizen process only applies to the employees based in the company’s production plants. It does not apply to the company’s sales and marketing employees and customer service representatives. When these employees are seemingly disentangled from the company’s culture, it is challenging garnering useful customer insights since they are the ones who are in direct contact with the customers (Andrews et al., 2011).

Operational Strategies that Ford and GM can implement to gain a market share from Toyota

Cost leadership is a business operations strategy that is premised on gaining a competitive advantage through having the lowest cost of operations in a given industry. Some of the factors that drive a cost leadership strategy include scale, size, company efficiency, and the company’s learning curve (Kurt and Zehir 2016). Cost leadership is best suited to Ford and GM since enterprises in the automobile industry usually employ price competition. By employing the cost leadership strategy, both GM and Ford will be able to offer their different vehicles at comparatively low prices and therefore attract most customers (Kurt and Zehir 2016). Over the years, Toyota has maintained a competitive advantage over other companies in the automobile industry by delivering its vehicles at comparatively lower prices than the competitors deliver. A cost leadership strategy has enabled Toyota Company to both realise and sustain above average returns. The above average returns have offered Toyota Company an effective and efficient flow of the produced vehicles at comparatively lower costs. Therefore, Ford and GM can equally gain market share from Toyota by employing a similar strategy. However, for Ford and GM to implement the cost leadership strategy effectively, they will need to improve their operational efficiencies (Kurt and Zehir 2016). One of the ways through which the two companies can improve their operational efficiencies is by both allocating and utilising their limited resources effectively in the development and production of different vehicles.

Additionally, both Ford and GM can gain a market share from Toyota Company by reducing the number of vehicle brands that they offer in the market. However, this will conflict with GM’s original approach to maintaining sustainability. Besides, this strategy is an antithesis of the cost leadership strategy. With this strategy, the two companies will need to close some of their not important brands, aiming at restructuring the operations. Usually, the more vehicle brands an automobile company sells, the more the given enterprise will be required to spread its capital resources in producing and marketing each of the vehicle brands (Kurt and Zehir 2016). Spreading capital resources is disadvantageous for businesses since no individual brand will obtain adequate resources for development, production, and marketing.

Furthermore, both Ford and GM can gain a market share from Toyota Company by using product differentiation. Both GM and Ford have previously used this strategy by offering custom features and characteristics with their various vehicle models. By offering additional value on its products, a company can both attract and retain its customers without necessarily having to rely on price competition as the only main way of gaining a competitive advantage over other companies in the market (Kurt and Zehir 2016). Some of the ways through which both GM and Ford can differentiate their products include excellent customer service, image management, fast product innovation, and advanced and updated technological features, among others. GM, in particular, has differentiated its product significantly. Notably, Cadillac often gets considered as a luxury brand in the USA and the rest of the world. Chevrolet, on the other hand, gets considered the most popular brand in the USA. The two firms can enhance the value of their products by enhancing the buyer’s performance and reducing the product’s costs. Further, the two companies can only reduce the buyer’s costs by offering high quality products, which have low rates of breakdown (Stewart 2018).

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Both Ford and GM can gain a market share from Toyota through mergers and acquisitions. In particular, the two firms can merge to form one automobile ‘giant’ company. Mergers and acquisitions will allow GM and Ford to share technology that can be used in product development, production, and marketing. Besides, in the automobile industry, all companies usually produce identical products. Therefore, human capital is the main determinant of market dominance in the automobile industry. A merger between Ford and GM will allow the two firms to expand their human capital.


To sum it up, the paper has presented a robust discussion of Toyota Company. The essay has, in particular, looked at how the company can introduce company-wide operations improvement strategy by focussing on TQM, Kaizen process and the 5S. The report has also evaluated how Ford and GM can acquire a market share from Toyota.


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Camuffo, A., and Wilhelm, M., 2016. Complementarities and organisational (Mis) fit a retrospective analysis of the Toyota recall crisis. Journal of Organization Design5(1), p.4.

Heller, V.L., and Darling, J.R., 2012. Anatomy of crisis management: lessons from the infamous Toyota Case. European Business Review24(2), pp.151-168.

Kurt, A. and Zehir, C., 2016. The relationship between cost leadership strategy, total quality management applications and financial performance.

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Stewart, J., 2018. The Toyota Kaizen continuum: A practical guide to implementing lean. Productivity Press.

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Tennert, F., 2014. An attributional analysis of corporate reporting in crises: The 2010 Toyota recall. Journal of Communication Management18(4), pp.422-435.

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