Did Iraq use a Toyota Production System to Hide
its Weapons of Mass Destruction???

May 1, 2003

Comment:  #479

Discussion Threads - Comment #s: 413, 451, 453, 457, 458, 465, 469, 476, 478

Attached References:

[Ref. 1] "Vilified weapons inspectors may have got it right," The Sydney Morning Herald, May 1 2003

Today's Sydney Morning Herald [Extracts at Ref 1 below] contains an absolutely mind-blowing economic revelation. The mystery surrounding how Saddam successfully hid his Weapons of Mass Destruction has been resolved by America's National Security Advisor, Ms. Condolezza Rice. Her revelation goes beyond the need for a pre-emptive war, however. It provides a vision that could have a profound impact on the evolution of our industrial culture and future prosperity.

According to Reference 1, Ms. Rice revealed that Saddam's weapons programs are "in bits and pieces" rather than assembled weapons. In her words, "You may find assembly lines, you may find pieces hidden here and there," she said. According to the wording of this report, "ingredients or precursors, many non-lethal by themselves, could be embedded in dual-use facilities."

But there is more! If the Herald's reportage is correct, Ms. Rice implied Saddam's distributed and seemingly inefficient production system represented a current threat serious enough to justify preemptive war. She implied Iraq could quickly assemble and launch these weapons. The key to her vision of this rapid reaction capability (a quick OODA loop) lies in Saddam's "just-in-time assembly" and "just-in-time" inventory systems.

If her words are accurately portrayed by the Sydney Morning Herald, Ms Rice is suggesting that Saddam Hussein may be an economic genius on a par with Henry Ford and Taichi Ohno.

Most of you know who Henry Ford was; Ohno, on the other hand, is less well known, but equally important. Ohno invented the justly-famed Toyota Production System. This expanded Henry Ford's ideas about production to new heights of efficiency and flexibility. Ohno achieved this by taking Henry's mass production ideas and synthesizing them with the organizational idea of a supermarket to create a more flexible, quicker-reacting industrial decision cycle or OODA Loop. At the heart of Ohno's brilliant synthesis is the revolutionary idea of decentralizing decision making to workers on the assembly line and using something akin to the decentralizing military concept of "mission orders" to harmonize the efforts needed to exploit his theory of "just-in-time" production and inventory management.

While Ohno's great synthesis was grounded on ideas of Henry Ford (In fact, Ohno revered Henry Ford), the result was diametrically opposed to the imperial pretensions of American industrial/business culture, which ironically, were also grounded on ideas of Henry Ford.

These pretensions rest in a organizational concept of centralized, top-down, command and control that is not unlike the theories of transformation now floating around the Pentagon. Under the top-down system, American industrialists believed all decisions should be made by the highest managers. (This non-delegation also has the convenient advantage of making it easier to justify being paid far more than ignorant workers, who are simply cogs in an all-seeing, all-knowing industrial machine.) Centralization of decisions led naturally to rigid bureaucracies, authoritarian administrative cultures, and luxurious suites (really, command centers) on the 80th floor, far from the grime on the factory floor.

America's imperial business culture also had its roots in the theories of scientific management propounded by Frederick Taylor -- a man who also influenced the evolution of our military personnel systems [see Blaster #s 413 & 451], not to mention our theories of scientific war. Taylor saw the factory as a machine and people as cogs in the machine. He created concepts of standardized work tasks being dictated to workers, who had no say in how they did anything. Taylor's theories also led to a negative feedback control system to regulate the flow of production through a system of rewards and punishments. This authoritarian culture ruled industrial economics successfully for almost 100 years, but it began to come under attack, first in the auto industry, because of its poor response the quality challenges that became so painfully evident during the energy crisis of the 1970s.

In Japan, Mr. Ohno thought there was a better way. He was busy beavering away in a Toyota factory during the 1960s, and by trial and error, he had perfected his ideas by the early 1970s. When energy crisis hit, Ohno's revolutionary decentralized methods at Toyota demonstrated a far quicker and more efficient OODA loop than its competitors in America, or in Japan, for that matter.

Nothing succeeds in business like success, so companies began to copy Ohno's system ... but most in America were unable to do so completely, because the corporate leadership did not want to give up the perks and luxuries of centralized hierarchy.

Which brings us to economic genius of Saddam.

If Ms. Rice's vision is correct. Saddam's invented top-down "just-in-time" production methods. If true, Saddam may have squared the circle and turned the decentralizing theories of Taichi Ohno on their collective head. If true, Saddam's management methods might be adapted to save the theory of autocratic centralization and top-down command and control for our business culture. It is only a matter of studying his methods and determining how they might apply in our unique business climate.

If this vision of autocratic "just-in-time" efficiency and flexibility can be transferred successfully to our corporations, the payoffs would be enormous. The growing disparity between wages on the factory floor and the 80th floor would not only be protected, it could be increased. On an even grander scale, the greater economic benefits of an authoritarian top-down just-in time production and inventory system might even trickle down to the masses and lift our obedient society out of its economic doldrums.

To be sure, these are big ideas, but Ms. Rice had demonstrated that there are still visioneers with big ideas in Versailles on the Potomac.

DNI Editor's note:  You can download a primer on the fundamentals of the Toyota Production System from our sister site, www.chetrichards.com. (A 120 KB self-extracting Zip file that produces a PowerPoint slide show.)


Chuck Spinney

"A popular government without popular information, or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy, or perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance, and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives." - James Madison, from a letter to W.T. Barry, August 4, 1822

[Disclaimer: In accordance with 17 U.S.C. 107, this material is distributed without profit or payment to those who have expressed a prior interest in receiving this information for non-profit research and educational purposes only.]

Reference 1

Vilified weapons inspectors may have got it right

The Sydney Morning Herald
May 1 2003


According to (President George Bush's National Security Adviser, Dr. Condoleezza) Rice, the weapons programs are "in bits and pieces" rather than assembled weapons.


She had a new explanation too for Iraq's ability to launch these weapons that were not assembled. "Just-in-time assembly" and "just-in-time" inventory, as she put it.


Addressing the UN Security Council on February 5, Mr. Powell said recent intelligence showed a missile brigade outside Baghdad was "dispersing rocket launchers and warheads containing biological warfare agent to various locations". Mr. Bush was equally alarmist, describing satellite evidence showing that Saddam Hussein was reconstituting Iraq's nuclear weapons programs with his top nuclear scientists


When Hans Blix, the chief UN weapons inspector, suggested Iraq's WMD program could be more fragmented and degraded, he was pilloried as naive or incompetent.


This story was found at: http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2003/04/30/1051381997497.html