Earthquakes that have wracked southern Japan in recent days have had a major impact on companies such as automaker Toyota, which is renowned worldwide for its lean manufacturing processes. Toyota is experiencing the painful flip side of running so lean, having been forced to shut down 26 assembly lines after a key supplier was forced by the quakes to stop production, as the Wall Street Journal reports.
Toyota has had to shut down production on the lines due to its "just-in-time" method of inventory, wherein plants may hold only several hours worth of parts at a time, as the Journal reports. This reduces storage costs, among other benefits, but if a natural disaster or other mishap befalls suppliers, the system becomes more of a liability than an asset.
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