Lean Manufacturing

National Public Radio to Feature Lean Thinking and NUMMI

By Jon Miller Updated on May 22nd, 2017

This Saturday March 27, 2010 the NPR program This American Life will feature the story of the Toyota-GM join venture factory in California in an episode titled NUMMI. Here is a promotional blurb from the NPR website.

The story of a car plant in Fremont California that might have saved the U.S. car industry, if only Detroit had been quicker to learn its lessons. In 1984, General Motors and Toyota opened NUMMI as a joint venture, building cars with Japanese quality and GM workers and supervisors.

But even though GM sent a generation of managers to NUMMI to learn how to make cars as reliable as Japanese imports, and set up a special liaison office to teach NUMMI techniques to the rest of GM, it took decades to start to implement company-wide the techniques it learned in 1984 at NUMMI. Today, GM cars still don’t have the quality of Japanese imports, GM is bankrupt and on March 31, 2010, NUMMI will be closed, sending thousands of car workers looking for jobs. NPR Automotive Correspondent Frank Langfitt tells the story of the rise of NUMMI, and of why GM – and the rest of the American car business – wasn’t able to learn from it more quickly.

Here is a link to a 30 second promotional sound byte that asks, “Why didn’t GM take the advice?” Don’t miss “The amazing story of NUMMI, the car plant that could have changed everything.”

My sources tell me that author and lean leader Dr. James Womack as well as others notables will be featured on this show. Don’t miss it!

(If you do miss it, visit their 2010 archives and look for episode #403. There is an MP3 file you can download for free.)

  1. sharma

    March 27, 2010 - 3:47 am

    Dear Jon,
    I am waiting to hear YOU on radio!
    Secondly, I would like to know in which other countries did TOYOTA initiate a venture similiar to NUMMI, and what are they called?

  2. Jon

    March 27, 2010 - 5:24 pm

    Hi Sharma
    I think most if not all of Toyota’s overseas factories are wholly-owned. The one exception maybe Toyota Kirloskar in India. I am not certain but that may be a joint venture with local Indian firm Kirloskar.
    NUMMI was their first foray into manufacturing on US soil and we could say in some ways an experiment.
    If you go to the Toyota website you can see their worldwide facilities. You may also be able to find this information in their annual reports or other corporate financial information.

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