Toyota Quality Problems: The Rise And The Fall Of The World’s Largest Auto Manufacturer.

In 2001, Toyota Motor Corporation summed up the philosophy, values and manufacturing ideals it used to guide the company to success. By cultivating and promoting a culture of continuous improvement and respect for others, Toyota had grown into the world’s second-largest automotive manufacturer and the first manufacturer to produce 10 million vehicles. 

The company philosophy served as the cornerstone of the empire. Toyota’s strategy to woo customers came from creating and maintaining extremely high standards. Organized into four categories, these powerful principles were known as ‘The Toyota Way’. 

Long-Term Philosophy

  • Management decisions should be based on long-term objectives, even if it means foregoing short-term financial goals.

The Right Process Will Produce The Right Results

  • Design a process that eliminates wasted time by connecting processes and creating a single continuous workflow. By simplifying the workflow, problems can be more easily identified when things go wrong. 
  • To reduce wasted efforts and overproduction, design systems that can communicate what is needed. When one component signals “I need more” of a certain material, only then does the associated component work to provide it. 
  • Level out the workload. The ideal scenario is one where neither the machines nor the workers are overburdened. This is important in extending the lifespan of both the equipment and worker and lead to a more consistent output. 
  • Stop and fix problems first. Building a culture that does not tolerate problems will lead to superior quality. In the Toyota Production System, an employee can halt production anytime he or she sees a quality issue. 
  • Standardize tasks by setting benchmarks against which all future processes are measured. Standardization helps with quality control, specialization, and faster production. Standardize work in such a way that there is room for workers to improve the company and themselves.
  • Use visual control to bring problems to light. There are five steps that can be used to improve workspace, improve flow of work, and prevent conflicts: Sort the unneeded things from the needed things. Straighten everything into its proper place. Maintain a clean and tidy workspace to make work easier. To maintain better control, create standards for everything. Rinse, repeat, and improve this process.
  • Use only reliable technology: The manufacturer has the privilege to choose the technology and therefore should always choose the most reliable for its needs.

Add Value To The Organization By Developing Your People

  • Grow leaders internally. Recruiting people from the outside is more expensive and less reliable. It is better to train the employees so there will exist a pool of highly skilled workers who can take up higher positions whenever needed.
  • Develop exceptional people and exceptional teams. The management should focus on a team-building philosophy that follows the company’s mission, continually investing in its staff. 
  • Help your partners and suppliers improve. Treats your partners and suppliers as extended employees, challenging them and helping them improve. By strengthening each link, the whole chain gets stronger. 

Continuously Solving Root Problems Drives Organizational Learning

  • See for yourself. Before making decisions just by looking at data, make the effort to go to the shop floor and see the operations firsthand. One cannot improve a situation without first experiencing it themselves.
  • Make decisions slowly but implement rapidly. Carefully evaluate every option and its consequences and only then make the decision. Managers should ensure that the workers agree with the decision or solution. Once the decision has been made, an implementation should be quick. Otherwise, the entire plan is at risk falling apart.
  • Reflect and improve. One should continuously try to improve through retrospection. Become a learning organization through reflection and improvement — Hansei and Kaizen.

When Toyota lost its way…

Between 2009–2011, Toyota was forced to recall an incredible 9 million of its cars in response to 3 separate recalls. The issue was the unintended acceleration some drivers had experienced leading to several severe incidents. How did this happen? How did the world’s largest, most trustworthy automobile manufacturer make such a serious mistake?

It began with a shift in priorities. At the turn of the millennia, Toyota began to slowly favor its dominance in the market over the quality of its vehicles. They began to cut corners and ignore consumer feedback — two behaviors it would never have tolerated before. The company that at one time had invested a minimum of ten years into training each new engineer began hiring less qualified workers and invested less in mentoring them. 

In an effort to rapidly increase growth, they allowed their standards to fall, and in return, the quality of their cars greatly suffered. In the aftermath of such a scandal, Toyota would suffer $2 billion in losses, and see their shares drop in value by 15%. Toyota had lost sight of what had made it great. Toyota had lost its way.

What Is A Solution Architect?

Before we dive into talking about what is a solution architect, let’s start by defining a solution. Quite simply, a solution is an answer to a problem. For a solution to have value, it must provide a measurable improvement to the situation at hand. A good solution will be the result of a collaborative effort, agreed upon by all decision makers involved.

What Is Solution Architecture?

In business, solution architecture is the translation of a project’s desired outcome into a solution document. The solution document identifies all the relevant technical components, roles, processes, and tasks that the project demands.

Each of these relevant domains (such as business, data, application, technology, integration, and security) must be addressed. This means identifying the unique demands and desired deliverables of each domain.

What is a solution architect


For example, imagine you are building an app for users to sell antiques to strangers. A proper solution document will in part, address:

The user experience — What does a typical buyer or seller do on the app? What is the flow of their activity? How does the app look and respond to their motives?

  • The technology used in development — Is the app designed for Android, iOS, or both? What 3rd-party integrations are used? Location services? Mobile payments? Messaging? How do users authenticate their products as legitimate?
  • The security features — Fingerprint reader? User accounts and passwords?
  • The data — Where is the user information stored? How does the app interact with the data for listed items?

As you can see, there are numerous moving pieces to address. Even a simple app, in theory, can demand the skills of a dozen experienced experts. A proper approach to a solution will leave no technical area left untouched.

What Is The Role Of A Solution Architect?

The solution architect puts together the master plan. Like an architect of real estate, they create a document that serves as a master guide for creating a service or product. Their broad range of technical expertise and experience in numerous disciplines allows them to view the project from a bird’s eye view.

Their work can include ideation, research, design, and implementation of the proposed solution. During ideation, the context for a solution is considered. The desired outcome is seen in light of the current environment. A client says to the architect “This is where we are, and this is where we want to be”. The vision is given, and the solution can begin to take shape.

The solution architect elaborates potential options for moving forward. Research is done to help discover which path is best. If any extra information is needed, the architect can reach out to 3rd parties for relevant details.

The solution architect then selects the optimal strategy and develops the roadmap for the selected solution. The roadmap guides the development team responsible for implementing the plan.

Related: What makes a development roadmap so useful?

Benefits Of Utilizing A Solution Architect:

In 2009, a study analyzed the value of solution architecture on software development (1). Usage of solution architecture within software development projects was found to be correlated with the following effects:

  • 19% decrease in project budget overrun
  • Increased predictability of project budget planning
  • 40% decrease in project time overrun
  • Increased customer satisfaction
  • 10% increase of results delivered
  • Increased technical fit of the project results

Ultimately, in a world where only 16% of custom software development projects deliver their results according to plan (2), the use of solution architecture can help overcome the biggest roadblocks faced.