The Toyota Production System (TPS) is an integrated socio-technical system developed by Toyota (automotive manufacturer) to efficiently organize manufacturing and logistics, including the interaction with suppliers and customers, to minimize cost and waste. Nampachi Hayashi claims that TPS should have been called “Toyota Process Development System.” Most uses of the word “Lean” are actually referring to TPS.
The philosophy is to work intelligently and eliminate waste so that only minimal inventory is needed. This increases cash flow and reduces physical space needs, and makes it easier to deliver the required results smoothly through internal processes one piece at a time (single piece flow) to the end customer.
The system is also known by the more generic “lean manufacturing” and “just-in-time production” or “JIT Manufacturing.”
This system, more than any other aspect of the company, is responsible for having made Toyota the company it is today. Toyota has long been recognized as a leader in the automotive manufacturing and production industry. In the early 1950s, the company faced near bankruptcy. After that major event that transformed the company, they have recorded steady sales and market-share growth, with hardly any years that have not been profitable.
A visit by Eiji Toyoda (an engineer and member of the founding family of Toyota) to the River Rouge Ford Plant in 1950 sparked the creation of the Toyota Production System. He famously stated to his colleagues at Toyota upon his return that “there ares some possibilities to improve the production system”.
The purpose is to identify and reduce three primary obstacles or deviations from optimal allocation of resources within the system:
TPS is grounded on two main conceptual pillars:
- Just-in-time – meaning “Making only what is needed, only when it is needed, and only in the amount that is needed”
- Jidoka – (Autonomation) meaning “Automation with a human touch”
The underlying principles of TPS (called the Toyota Way) are as follows:
- Continuous improvement
- Respect for people
- We respect others, make every effort to understand each other, take responsibility and do our best to build mutual trust.
- We stimulate personal and professional growth, share the opportunities of development and maximize individual and team performance.
Some of the key tools and concepts used within TPS include:
- Gemba and Genchi Genbutsu
- Level loading
- Muda, Mura, Muri
- Poka-yoke (error proofing)
- Value Stream Mapping
- 5 Why’s
- 1973 Toyota Production System Manual (audiobook/MP3 and PDF from Generosity Press)
- Two Giants, Two Communities, One Lasting Thing – John Shook discusses Toyota, Norman Bodek and Ezra Vogel
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