This system of production, pioneered by Henry Ford, was made possible by standardising parts and making it simple to put parts together. Standardisation led to a massive increase in productivity over craft production.
Workers in mass production systems perform limited tasks, repetitively. It means that workers can be trained speedily and cheaply.
Using ‘non-thinking’ workers, mass production systems rely on professional roles for decision making. In many industries, professional roles have become more and more specialised (e.g. foreman, engineer, quality, human resources – with further specialisation in each of these). People learn more about their specialism and less about how the whole system works.
The waste caused by functional thinking on behaviour can be tolerated when the competition is similarly organised. When Ohno developed the Toyota Production System (TPS), the weaknesses of mass production became apparent. The TPS, as Ohno developed it, was run as a system, utilising ‘knowledge workers’ at all levels.