Japanese firms have achieved the highest levels of manufacturing efficiency in the world automobile industry. Some observers of Japan have assumed that Japanese firms use the same manufacturing equipment and techniques as United States firms but have benefited from the unique characteristics of Japanese employees and the Japanese culture. However, if this were true, then one would expect Japanese auto plants in the United States to perform no better than factories run by United States companies. This is not the case; Japanese-run automobile plants located in the United States and staffed by local workers have demonstrated higher levels of productivity when compared with factories owned by United States companies.
Other observers link high Japanese productivity to higher levels of capital investment per worker. But a historical perspective leads to a different conclusion. When the two top Japanese automobile makers matched and then doubled United States productivity levels in the mid-sixties, capital investment per employee was comparable to that of United States firms. Furthermore, by the late seventies, the amount of fixed assets required to produce one vehicle was roughly equivalent in Japan and in the United States.
Since capital investment was not higher in Japan, it had to be other factors that led to higher productivity. A more fruitful explanation may lie with Japanese production techniques. Japanese automobile producers did not simply implement conventional processes more effectively: they made critical changes in United States procedures. For instance, the mass-production philosophy of United States automakers encouraged the production of huge lots of cars in order to utilize fully expensive, component-specific equipment and to occupy fully workers who have been trained to execute one operation efficiently. Japanese automakers chose to make small-lot production feasible by introducing several departures from United States practices, including the use of flexible equipment that could be altered easily to do several different production tasks and the training of workers in multiple jobs. Automakers could schedule the production of different components or models on single machines, thereby eliminating the need to store the buffer stocks of extra components that result when specialized equipment and workers are kept constantly active.
Question: The primary purpose of the passage is to
- present the major steps of a process
- clarify an ambiguity
- chronicle a dispute
- correct misconceptions
- defend an accepted approach
Question: The author suggests that if the observers of Japan mentioned in were correct, which of the following would be the case?
- The equipment used in Japanese automobile plants would be different from the equipment used in United States plants.
- Japanese workers would be trained to do several different production jobs.
- Culture would not have an influence on the productivity levels of workers.
- The workers in Japanese-run plants would have higher productivity levels regardless of where they were located.
- The production levels of Japanese-run plants located in the United States would be equal to those of plants run by United States companies.
Question: Which of the following statements concerning the productivity levels of automakers can be inferred from the passage?
- Prior to the 1960’s, the productivity levels of the top Japanese automakers were exceeded by those of United States automakers.
- The culture of a country has a large effect on the productivity levels of its automakers.
- During the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, productivity levels were comparable in Japan and the United States.
- The greater the number of cars that are produced in a single lot, the higher a plant’s productivity level.
- The amount of capital investment made by automobile manufacturers in their factories determines the level of productivity.
Question: According to the passage, which of the following statements is true of Japanese automobile workers?
- Their productivity levels did not equal those of United States automobile workers until the late seventies.
- Their high efficiency levels are a direct result of cultural influences.
- They operate component-specific machinery.
- They are trained to do more than one job.
- They produce larger lots of cars than do workers in United States factories.
Question: Which of the following best describes the organization of the first paragraph?
- A thesis is presented and supporting examples are provided.
- Opposing views are presented, classified, and then reconciled.
- A fact is stated, and an explanation is advanced and then refuted.
- A theory is proposed, considered, and then amended.
- An opinion is presented, qualified, and then reaffirmed.
Question: It can be inferred from the passage that one problem associated with the production of huge lots of cars is which of the following?
- The need to manufacture flexible machinery and equipment
- The need to store extra components not required for immediate use
- The need for expensive training programs for workers, which emphasize the development of facility in several production jobs
- The need to alter conventional mass-production processes
- The need to increase the investment per vehicle in order to achieve high productivity levels
Question: Which of the following statements is supported by information stated in the passage?
- Japanese and United States automakers differ in their approach to production processes.
- Japanese automakers have perfected the use of single-function equipment.
- Japanese automakers invest more capital per employee than do United States automakers.
- United States-owned factories abroad have higher production levels than do Japanese owned plants in the United States.
- Japanese automakers have benefited from the cultural heritage of their workers.
Question: With which of the following predictive statement regarding Japanese automakers would the author most likely agree?
- The efficiency levels of the Japanese automakers will decline if they become less flexible in their approach to production.
- Japanese automakers productivity levels double during the late 1990’s.
- United States automakers will originate new production processes before Japanese automakers do.
- Japanese automakers will hire fewer workers than will United States automakers because each worker is required to perform several jobs.
- Japanese automakers will spend less on equipment repairs than will United States automakers because Japanese equipment can be easily altered.
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