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Just in Time by Steve Payne

Author says: what if the US Special Procurements Program hadn't pumped $3.5bn into the Japanese Economy? Please note that the opinions expressed in this post do not necessarily reflect the views of the author(s).

In 1950,

Please click the icon to follow us on Facebook.as the last automobile left the line in Nagoya, Factory Manager Eiji Toyoda and his Chief Production Engineer Taiichi Ohno regretted that the end of windfall orders from the US Government after the military disaster at Inchon had prevented the now insolvent Motor Sales Company from successfully developing the revolutionary Toyota Production System (TPS) later known as "lean manufacturing".

Just in TimeIn 1938, CEO Kiichiro Toyoda had asked his cousin Eiji to oversee construction of a newer factory about 32 km east of Nagoya on the site of a red pine forest in the town of Koromo, later re-named Toyota City. Toyoda visited Ford's River Rouge Plant at Dearborn, Michigan. He was awed by the scale of the facility but dismissive of what he saw as its inefficiencies. Toyota Motor had been in the business of manufacturing cars for thirteen years at this stage, and had produced just over two thousand five hundred automobiles. The Ford plant in contrast manufactured eight thousand vehicles a day.

Due to this experience, Toyoda decided to adopt US automobile mass production methods but with a qualitative twist. Instead of the huge stock holdings he had seen in Dearborn, Toyoda told workers to turn out parts for the manufacturing process "just in time". He also organized workers into self-suffient teams who would be their own supervisors and quality controllers; if they observed the smallest defect, they were permitted to halt the production line for corrective action to be taken. Needless to say, the result was chaos as the production line was halted by workers pulling the power cord or parts failing to arrive "just in time".

During the summer of 1950, the Korean War broke out and the US Government desperately needed cars and trucks even faster than "just in time", they needed them like yesterday. Suddenly the factory was receiving orders for fifteen hundred trucks a month. As production was upscaled, the initial problems with TPS began to get solved - but then Toyoda and Ohno ran out of time.

Of course the continuation of so-called "divine" aid to Japanese Industry might well have created enormous long-term problems for the unwitting American taxpayer who had been led to believe that the Japanese were savages and brutes. And despite various punitive threats to gut central Japan, sterilize the male population or return the economy to an agricultural state, the reconstructed post-war Japan being financed was a restoration to its pre-Pearl Harbour state. Had Toyota emerged as a world-class automobile manufacturer, workers at Dearbourn and Detroit might also have had reason to question why American had gone to war with Japan. As it turned out, the Korean War was a short run affair as allied troops were rapidly forced off the peninsula, and MacArthur's counter-attack was a reputation-destroying disaster of truly epic magnitudes.

Author says in reality by 1958 Japan was producing 200,000 cars per year and beginning to build an export market in the United States.To view guest historian's comments on this post please visit the Today in Alternate History web site.

Steve Payne, Editor of Today in Alternate History, a Daily Updating Blog of Important Events In History That Never Occurred Today. Follow us on Facebook, Myspace and Twitter.

Imagine what would be, if history had occurred a bit differently. Who says it didn't, somewhere? These fictional news items explore that possibility. Possibilities such as America becoming a Marxist superpower, aliens influencing human history in the 18th century and Teddy Roosevelt winning his 3rd term as president abound in this interesting fictional blog.


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