(p. A1) TOKYO— Toyota Motor Corp. is stockpiling up to four months of some parts. Volkswagen AG is building six factories so it can get its own batteries. And, in shades of Henry Ford, Tesla Inc. is trying to lock up access to raw materials.
The hyperefficient auto supply chain symbolized by the words “just in time” is undergoing its biggest transformation in more than half a century, accelerated by the troubles car makers have suffered during the pandemic. After sudden swings in demand, freak weather and a series of accidents, they are reassessing their basic assumption that they could always get the parts they needed when they needed them.
“The just-in-time model is designed for supply-chain efficiencies and economies of scale,” said Ashwani Gupta, Nissan Motor Co.’s chief operating officer. “The repercussions of an unprecedented crisis like Covid highlight the fragility of our supply-chain model.”
. . .
(p. A10) One day in 1950, Toyota executive Taiichi Ohno visited an American supermarket and marveled how the shelves were restocked as they were emptied, as Jeffrey Liker recounts in his book “The Toyota Way.” Shoppers were kept happy even though the supermarket had only small storerooms. It was the polar opposite of the car industry where warehouses were kept full of sheet metal and tires to ensure the assembly line never shut down.
Supermarkets had little choice, since they couldn’t stockpile bananas for months. Still, Mr. Ohno reasoned, their practices eliminated waste and cut costs. Toyota would only pay for what it needed to produce cars for a day. That meant they could make do with smaller factories and warehouses.
. . .
The tide began to turn with the global financial crisis. At least 50 auto suppliers went bankrupt, catching car makers by surprise. When suppliers like Visteon Corp. , a maker of air conditioners, radios and other components, declared bankruptcy, it led to fears that car factories relying on Visteon would also be unable to operate.
A different shock prompted a rethinking of just in time at the company where it started. The 2011 earthquake in northern Japan hit Toyota suppliers including chip maker Renesas Electronics Corp.
. . .
For certain components, Toyota asked its suppliers to stockpile parts, the antithesis of just in time. The on-hand inventory held by Toyota’s largest supplier, Denso Corp., rose to around 50 days’ worth of supply in the year ended March 2020, up from 38 days in 2011, according to its financial filings. Denso declined to comment on inventory figures but said it has started keeping emergency stores of parts, especially semiconductors.
Toyota’s efforts have helped it weather this year’s shortages of semiconductors better than many of its rivals, although it wasn’t perfect.
For the full story, see:
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the story has the date May 3, 2021, and has the title “Auto Makers Retreat From 50 Years of ‘Just in Time’ Manufacturing.”)
The most recent edition of the classic book on Toyota’s success, mentioned above, is:
Liker, Jeffrey. The Toyota Way, 14 Management Principles from the World’s Greatest Manufacturer. 2nd ed. New York: McGraw-Hill Education, 2021.