Quality improvement does work as the news story opposite amply demonstrates - Ford surpasses Honda and ties with Toyota. Years of continuous improvement throughout the global organisation has delivered the longed for benefits.
Competition for leadership between these global brands hovers around very high benchmarks of quality and excellence. All these car companies and their global supply chains have all gone down the lean manufacturing route with just in time delivery and zero stock/ work in progress strategies - all are highly responsive to changes in market conditions. Any downturn in demand is immediately felt throughout the entire supply chain as there are now no stock, finished goods, or work in progress to absorb fluctuations. We see the consequences of this as demand for cars has slumped to half the levels of 2008; production has responded with closures, extended holidays, shutdowns and lay-offs.
Those companies which have adopted a temporary worker philosophy have been able to lay off personnel with relative impunity. But even those with permanent staff have been ruthless when it comes to protecting the business. And it's not just in the automotive industry. In the quality industry, market demand for products is down by some 20 - 30 per cent and, of course, action follows with many companies trimming staff and budgets very quickly indeed. What is more difficult to quantify is the impact on staff morale. Yes, those that remain are lucky to have a job - but what has happened to the quality company image of being a good employer? We're all very valued assets and company associates till the axe swings!