Okayama Economic Review
Published by the Economic Association of Okayama University


Since the beginning of 1990 s, Toyota has been pursuing a new direction in its human resource management and assembly work. After encountering a labor crisis-labor shortage and high turn over of young workers-during the economic boom provoked by the "financial bubble" toward the end of 1980 s, Toyota's management and Union discussed ways of making the work more attractive. Based on this discussion, the production engineering division developed a new assembly line concept realized firstly at Toyota Kyushu plant (1992), applied also to Toyota's Motomachi No.2 plant (1994), Tahara No.1 plant (1995) and Motomachi No.1 plant (1996). Among these plants, the construction of the assembly line at Tahara No.1 Plant constitutes a unique case in the fact that it was not the production engineering division, but the foremen, supervisors and engineers belonging to the plant who conceived and constructed this new assembly line. Moreover, in order to realize what they considered as their ideal assembly line, they proposed to the product development center an important change of car structure and parts design from the very beginning of product development where the so called "concurrent engineering" has started. The second part of this paper deals with the 'Kaizen' activities in order to realize their "ideal assembly line" after construction. In the concluding section, I emphasize the fact that the 'Kaizen' activities at Toyota are now centered on humanization of work certainly without renouncing efforts towards cost reduction.
論説 (Article)