The secret to Ford's success was a new process model for automobile manufacturing--Continuous Flow Assembly. And while his emergency was not a military one, remember that Ford was trying to build and dominate a brand new industry. He was quite literally trying to change the world. Like the other precursors of the JIT production system, better production techniques were used because survival--and victory--depended on it.
One difference was that Ford relied on maximum lot sizes and minimum numbers of setups. Toyota, on the other hand, strove to reduce lot sizes to eventually produce each and every product uniquely.
Another big difference was in the control of production. Kanban was used as the major tool in Toyota's JIT production system.
A third key difference was in the rearrangement of equipment. Instead of grouping all machines together by type of machine--all of the lathes here, all of the milling machines over there, for example--Toyota arranged the machines in the order that they were used in the manufacturing process. This meant low inventories and small lot sizes.
These were revolutionary changes in automobile manufacturing. What prompted such innovation? Toyota was one of many Japanese manufacturers trying desperately to build something from what little was left of Japanese industry following World War II. Better production techniques were used because survival--and victory--depended on it.
We all know the result. Today, Toyota dominates the automobile market and is a model for manufacturing excellence. And Ford, the proverbial mentor, nearly failed before following the path of its protégé. The student became the teacher, and the teacher the student. In the school of hard knocks, Ford has learned a lot in the past decade, and better production techniques are being used because survival--and victory--depend on it.