Auto makers are trying to be more flexible - using advances in production technology to adapt their production lines to build multiple models. But western companies are still playing catch-up with Japan, writes Mark Bursa. Around 14 years ago, there was a re-evaluation of manufacturing processes, and slowly, European and American auto makers have adopted the Japanese methods and techniques epitomised by the Toyota Manufacturing System. Not a moment too soon - by 1990, the Japanese auto makers were well established in North America and had already opened their first European production facilities.