Hence, these are "invisible" to the end user, but no less vital to the success of the company for it. Components of this type of competition include production lead time, development speed in research and development, production quality, and the capacity of group companies and parts suppliers (The Manufacturer, 2010). Production quality is one of Toyota's great success benchmarks, as the company's inherent philosophy is that quality is a built-in component of all its products.
A further benchmark is the Toyota Global Vision 2010. Created in 2002, the Vision identified four areas of innovations. The first of these is the drive towards greener practices, known as "true to the earth" (The Manufacturer, 2010). The drive is to develop the most advanced environmental technologies, as seen above. The second component is "Comfort of life." This means that Toyota would create products that provide ease, safety and comfort for users. "Excitement for the world," in turn, means that Toyota would create a sense of excitement about their products and brand, while the already mentioned "respect for all people" means that the company would not only respect its employees and customers, but also command reciprocal respect from the world within which it works and functions.
The first component, "true to earth," provides a benchmark for sustainability. Toyota is concerned not only with creating environmentally friendly products but also with the direct effect of these upon the environment. In other words, both the principle of green technology and its practical applicability to the plight of the earth are important. This component then dictates that the company seek to balance the increasing demand for vehicle ownership with its responsibility as a corporate citizen. Increasing concerns such as global warming and air pollution will also mean an increase in this responsibility.
To address this, the Toyota Company recognizes that creating hybrid vehicles and promoting them as strongly as possible to the public is only part of the solution. As mentioned above, the recognition here is that there should also be a wider focus upon the context of manufacture. Not only should there be a recognition of the effects of emissions form existing vehicles, for example; the entire industry should be taken into account when addressing the problem of global warming and environmental deterioration. In other words, the focus should not only be on "tank-to-wheel" efficiency, but also on "well-to-tank" efficiency (The Manufacturer, 2010).
In the light of these benchmarks, Toyota has created a set of guiding principles for its operations worldwide (Toyota North American, Inc., 2011). The seven guiding Principles form the fundamental management policy for the company, which includes not only respect for the environment and a commitment to quality, but also a respect for the diversified cultures of the communities within which the company operates.
In terms of best practice, a large part of Toyota's operations is focused upon sustainability. Importantly, one aspect that relates to this is Toyota's coordination with other businesses in the industry to help reduce the company's environmental footprint. This involves all of Toyota's business relationships, including those with its affiliated companies. Essential functions in this regard include implementing the corporate principles of Toyota, along with its policies and action guidelines; setting direction and strategy for the achievement of the company's vision; establishing priorities and action plans; formulating a unified position as concerns environmental issues; and coordinating environmental activities.
Specifically, Toyota's best practice activities revolve around using ecological plastics in its vehicle design. These are derived from plant materials and emit less carbon gases than plastics made only from petroleum. The 2011 Prius has, for example, been redesigned to incorporate biobased plastics in the cushion of its driver's seat, scuff plate and cowl side trim. Other recycled materials are also used in the company's vehicles.
In terms of analyzing its current practices, the Toyota Company does not have an information disclosure policy. However, it does adhere to company-wide transparency in certain key aspects (One World Trust, 2006): In the Toyota Code of Conduct, the company indicates an understanding of the importance of disclosure. Particularly, there is a stated commitment to accurate communication and timely information to stakeholders. Open and fair communication seems to lie at the heart of this commitment.
There is an Information Disclosure Committee that oversees the company's transparency. There appears to be no training for staff on how to comply with the company's transparency requirement. Furthermore, despite its operations in several different countries, the code of conduct was found only in English and Japanese. Furthermore, the Website does not have a function that allows easy stakeholder communication with the company.
Another concern is that Toyota appears to have no specific policy on external stakeholder engagement. The Code of Conduct makes a statement to the effect that the company "listens to" and "respects" its stakeholders and their suggestions. However, this is too vague to meet the requirements for good practice in terms of stakeholder engagement. One important element is to identify the conditions under which stakeholders may be involved in decision making or how this involvement will affect the ultimate decisions taken.
In conclusion, the Toyota Company is extremely strong in a number of key areas, and specifically as far as the environment is concerned. Both the philosophy and the manufacturing process of the company indicate a commitment to the environment and its sustainability. It uses environmentally friendly materials and communicates with business partners and stakeholders to ensure green practices.
One of the most important factors Toyota incorporates in its best practice paradigm is lean manufacturing. Indeed, the company has been the pioneer in bringing this production paradigm from Japan to the Western world. To help companies establish their own profitable version of this type of manufacturing, the company has established the Toyota Supplier Support Center (TSSC) in 1992. It words with manufacturers to help strengthen their competitiveness. In this way, Toyota has been working with other companies to enhance the social paradigm of helping stakeholders become more profitable.
The main purpose of lean manufacturing is to reduce costs while improving the quality of a product. At the heart of this manufacturing paradigm is that no part of the factory operates unless it is necessary. This creates fewer inventories and minimizes scrap and wastage, either in terms of materials, motion, or money. In today's economy, this is particularly important, not only in the light of the looming calamity the earth faces, but also in terms of material and fund savings. This is something that can be usefully shared with other manufacturers.
Because there is no wastage of time, energy, or other precious resources, the company engaging in lean manufacturing can pay more attention to the products it is working on at any given time. This is particularly important in Toyota's supply chain, as better manufacturing practices mean a greater ability to reach the company's goals in terms of the environment.
Two important components of Toyota's manufacturing paradigm include human relationships and the company's relationship to its environment. To promote these, employee training is vital (Lean Directions, 2001). Communication among business partners is also important in implementing the various manufacturing techniques required to truly create a company and process that make a difference in the world.
There are various recommendations that can be derived from these conclusions. According to the One World Trust (2006) document, there are significant shortcomings in Toyota's stated communications with its stakeholders. It is therefore recommended that these documents and statements be refined towards a more specific indication of stakeholder importance. For example, the Toyota company needs to clarify what role its stakeholders play in its decision making process. There also needs to be clarification regarding what type of decisions will be communicated, and to what extent these will be able to be influenced by stakeholders. Although the document states that "respect" is at the heart of the company's communications with stakeholders and the community, there is not direct, official statement to indicate what is meant by such respect.
Clearly, Toyota Motors is a company that has taken sustainability to heart. The concern for sustainability and maintaining good customer relationships forms the core of good practice in the business. In this, the company recognizes that it is only by maintaining sustainable practice that it can hope to be of long-term use to its customers and stakeholders. Although the company is lacking in specific official statements regarding stakeholder communication, this is mitigated by the fact of its good practice in terms of practical communication, green practice, and manufacturing efficiency.
In the future, it is projected that Toyota's conscious effort towards manufacturing excellence, balanced with a concern for the world whose resources it uses to function, will solidify its leadership position in the industry and ensure its longevity in an increasingly depleted world. Perhaps Toyota Motors can serve as an example of sustainable business and technology, providing the earth and its inhabitants with a second chance at life and health, while also providing the best of comforts that modern minds can conjure.…