American firms could no longer rest on the laurels of their achievements of the first half of the century and looked to the success of Japanese manufacturing, particularly the Toyota Company, for ways to improve productivity. Current global competition requires flexibility and absorption of principles from various cultures. Most major firms have recognized the need to change effectively and have embraced these philosophies to varying degrees. Some do not seem to truly internalize these changes, and as soon as the change effort loses favor, or is replaced by a different program, the fledgling changes may be discarded and the organization reverts to its previous practices.
The aerospace sector has traditionally been seen as more of a craft industry than a mass production industry for some of its products. Aircraft and spacecraft are not produced in as large a number as many other goods, such as automobiles, and are very complex systems when characterized by the engineering, material, and safety considerations that are required in their design, manufacture, and testing. These differences have provided a challenge to the acceptance of change initiatives in these companies because of the existing practices and culture and the perception that initiatives that are useful for mass produced items will not apply to specialized and technologically advanced or highly