The Same Problem, the Same Approach to Solve and the Different Target for Solution – Toyota and Volvo Uddevalla
Other conference contribution, 2014

Since the end of 20th century, competition in the same markets among globalized auto companies has become more intense. Vehicles have mainly been manufactured in the country or region for sale. Competition in the same country or region therefore mainly means competition of production system efficiency.For this reason, we focus here on comparing various kinds of production systems.

As you know it has become widely accepted in the mainstream that Toyota production system is the most up-to-date and efficient production system and Uddevalla 1989-1992 the converse. The latter is regarded as the out-of-date craftsman production system. However, in our research, we, joint co-authors from Japan and Sweden, have found quite interesting facts that contradict the mainstream view. We found that both Toyota and Volvo Uddevalla 1989-1992 faced the same shortage of young workers in the 1980s and took the same approach to solve it.

This approach was a work-focused improvement, and the concrete tools for solving it were four similar or identical work-focused devices. They were a reintroduction of contextual meaning in operations, the grouping of parts based on contextual meaning, kit systems based on parts grouping, and embedding various kinds of buffers in the line to absorb fluctuations in work pace.

Therefore the functions of these four work-focused devices were very different because each had a different target. Firstly, the common characteristic of three of the work-focused devices, excluding buffers, was contextual meaning. However, this contextual meaning functioned differently at Toyota and Uddevalla 89-92. In the case of Toyota, its aim was to exclude Inner Dialogue in labour process and ensure a certain level of efficiency and work quality regardless of the worker's competence and attentiveness. It thus functions as a tool to create objective devices to achieve efficiency and work quality independent of a worker’s body and mind.

A comment; this publication is a part of the authours' long-term (several decades) cooperation with these particular Japanese research colleagues (see other publications registered in Chalmers Public Library CPL).

international comparisons

lean production and alternatives

production models

alternatives to line assembly

multi- and cross-science approaches


Hikari Nohara

Uich Asao

Eishi Fujita

Masaki Fujita

Tomas Engström

Chalmers, Technology Management and Economics, Logistics & Transportation

Lars Medbo

Chalmers, Technology Management and Economics, Logistics & Transportation

Lennart Nilsson

University of Gothenburg

The 22nd International Gerpisa Colloquium
Paris, ,

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Globalization Studies

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