Henry Ford achieved world-class results with three key performance indicators (KPIs), none of which were financial. His successors’ changeover to financial metrics, on the other hand, caused the company to forget what we now call the Toyota production system.
Henry Ford’s creation of what we now call lean manufacturing is an excellent reason to listen to him today, and so is his company’s role in making the United States the wealthiest and most powerful nation on earth. Why, then, do we call his methods the Toyota production system instead of the Ford production system? When the so-called “Whiz Kids” applied financial metrics to the Ford Motor Co. after World War II, it declined to the point where it forgot the methods to which it owed its phenomenal success. In a 2001 Wall Street Journal article, Norihiko Shirouzu reported that a Ford vice president was “trying to entice assembly workers and engineers to abandon nearly all they know about the mass manufacturing system that Henry Ford ought to life about 90 years ago.” The rest of the article showed that the vice president was actually trying to teach the workforce exactly how Henry Ford made cars, but he apparently believed the methods to be Japanese.