XAT 2011 Question 1


Read the  following  discussion/passage  and provide an appropriate answer for the questions that follow.

Of the several features of the Toyota Production System that have been widely studied, most important is the mode of governance of the shop - floor at Toyota. Work and inter - relations between workers are highly scripted in extremely detailed ‘operating procedures’ that have to be followed rigidly, without any deviation at Toyota. Despite such rule - bound rigidity, however, Toyota does not become a ‘command - control system’. It is able to retain the character of a learning organization

In fact, many observers characterize it as a community of scientists carrying out several small experiments simultaneously. The design of the operating procedure is the key. Every principal must find an expression in the operating procedure – that is how it has an effect in the domain of action. Workers on the shop - floor, often in teams, design the ‘operating procedure’ jointly with the supervisor through a series of hypothesis that are proposed and validated or refuted through experiments in action. The rigid and detailed ‘operating procedure’ specification throws up problems of the very minute kind; while its resolution leads to a reframing of the procedure and specifications. This inter - temporal change (or flexibility) of the specification (or operating procedure) is done at the lowest level of the organization; i.e. closest to the site of action.

One implication of this arrangement is that system design can no longer be rationally optimal and standardized across the organization. It is quite common to find different work norms in contiguous assembly lines, because each might have faced a different set of problems and devised different counter - measures to tackle it. Design of the coordinating process that essentially imposes the discipline that is required in large - scale complex manufacturing systems is therefore customized to variations in man - machine context of the site of action. It evolves through numerous points of negotiation throughout the organization. It implies then that the higher levels of the hierarchy do not exercise the power of the fiat in setting work rules, for such work rules are no longer a standard set across the whole organization.

It might be interesting to go through the basic Toyota philosophy that underlines its system designing practices. The notion of the ideal production system in Toyota embraces the following -‘the ability to deliver just - in - time (or on demand) a customer order in the exact specification demanded, in a batch size of one (and hence an infinite proliferation of variants, models and specifications), defect - free, without wastage of material, labour, energy or motion in a safe and (physically and emotionally) fulfilling production environment’. It did not embrace the concept of a standardized product that can be cheap by giving up variations. Preserving consumption variety was seen, in fact, as one mode of serving society. It is interesting to note that the articulation of the Toyota philosophy was made around roughly the same time that the Fordist system was establishing itself in the US automotive industry.

Question 1

What can be best defended as the asset which Toyota model of production leverages to give the vast range of models in a defect - free fashion?


From the second paragraph, it can be inferred that the workers come up with solution to unique problems that come up during manufacturing . Hence, option D can be best defended as the asset which Toyota model of production leverages to give the vast range of models in a defect - free fashion.

Hence, option D is the correct answer.

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