Lean Manufacturing and Six Sigma Definitions

Glossary terms, history, people and definitions about Lean and Six Sigma

Shigeo Shingo

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Shigeo Shingō (1909-1990) was a Japanese industrial engineer who was heavily involved in the development and promotion of the Toyota Production System (TPS) to the rest of the world, specifically tools such as SMED, Poka-Yoke and Zero Quality Control (ZQC).

Shingo earned his degree as an industrial engineer from Yamanashi Technical College in 1930, then worked for the Taipei Railway Factory. During World War II, he was sent by the government to the Amano manufacturing plant in Yokohama. As production manager, he increased productivity by 100%. In 1945, he started working at the Japan Management Association (JMA) as a consultant, focused on the improvement of factory management.

Shingo’s interaction with Toyota started in 1955 when an engineer from the car manufacturer went to see Shingo give a lecture. When he reported to Taiichi Ohno about the seminar, he decided to bring him to speak and work at Toyota, according to an interview with Isao Kato, a manager at the time with Toyota. He helped train manufacturing engineers on implementing the efficiency processes with his P-course, that influenced Toyota’s later creation of kaizen.

Kato also stated that Shingo didn’t invent SMED, but did provide guidance around internal vs external work. Instead of Taiichi Ohno’s 5 Why’s approach, he taught a different set questions related to production (called Shingo’s Why’s):

  1. Why do we need this object?
  2. Why do we require this subject?
  3. Why use this kind of method?
  4. Why this kind of space utilization?
  5. Why this kind of time?

Shingō may well be known better in the West than in Japan, as a result of his meeting Norman Bodek, an American entrepreneur, publisher, and founder of Productivity Inc.

In 1981, Bodek traveled to Japan to learn about the Toyota Production System, coming across books by Shingō, based on the Production Course (P-Course) he started teaching in 1947 to thousands of people in Japan. The course was based on Industrial Engineering principles. Kato also stated that his biggest influence in Toyota was the P-course that he taught to the production engineers for around 20 years.

In 1988, the Jon M. Huntsman School of Business at Utah State University created the Shingō Prize for Operational Excellence that recognizes world-class, lean organizations and operational excellence.

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