As a pioneer in an industry that conceals its manufacturing strategies as if they were atomic secrets, Ford was astonished to get Toyota’s invitation. “We invite you to visit our newest manufacturing plant,” the invitation read. “Send your top engineers and bring all your questions. We’re anxious to share our methods.” Many senior executives at Ford thought it all sounded too good to be true.
When the engineers returned from their visit to Japan they agreed that the skeptics had been right. “It wasn’t a real auto manufacturing facility,” plant engineers explained. “Sure they had chassis and tools and people, but spare parts and components were virtually nonexistent.” The warehouse was too small to support the level of scheduled activity…