What Really Makes Toyota’s Production System Resilient

The supply chain disruptions triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic caused major headaches for manufacturers around the world. Nowhere was this felt more acutely than in the auto industry, which faced severe shortages of semiconductor chips and other components. This led many people to argue that just-in-time and lean production methods were dead and being superseded by “just-in-case” stocking of more inventory.

Yet Toyota, the originator of lean concepts, fared better than most of its competitors and passed General Motors to become the top seller in North America in 2021. People watched the company continue to churn out vehicles and concluded that it must have turned its back on its principles of minimal inventories and a pull production system. But the truth was that its performance during the pandemic highlighted how less understood aspects of its system actually led to greater resilience and a better capacity to accommodate disruptions.

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This article was written by Willy C. Shih and originally published on hbr.org