Born in the factories of Toyota and adopted by nearly all manufacturers around the world, "lean manufacturing" eliminates waste, creates efficiencies and helps companies continuously shave production costs. But Toyota's recent problems highlight how certain elements of this approach – eliminating overlap by using common parts and designs across multiple product lines, and reducing the number of suppliers to procure parts in greater scale – can backfire when quality-control issues arise.

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http://online.wsj.com/article/