BY TAIICHI OHNO
Taiichi Ohno, the inventor of the Toyota Production System and author of the book by the same name, offers readers lessons in thinking. Readers will learn more about the thought processes than the actual production steps, but that is the point. By learning how to think and analyze, readers will be able to design more efficient processes specific to their product or service. This “lean” thinking is all about eliminating waste and streamlining procedures from the manufacturing phase to the purchasing phase.
“All we are doing is looking at the timeline, from the moment the customer gives us an order to the point when we collect the cash. And we are reducing the time line by reducing the non-value adding wastes.”
The Toyota Production System (TPS) is a combination of themes, attitudes, and specific techniques. Readers will learn that the success of this type of system depends on how deeply engrained this combination is in a company's culture. TPS is not about quick fixes, handy tips, or any of the other offerings of many business models that just scratch the surface. The system is more of a “workstyle” choice that must be adopted throughout a company and requires a deep commitment to reap the full benefits.
The TPS has been a catalyst for similar systems from “Just in Time Manufacturing” to “Demand Flow Technology.” “Lean Manufacturing,” coined by James Womack, seems to be one of the more well-known versions and it captures the essence of these systems: Lean processes. The book teaches readers that the underlying theme of the TPS and other “lean” systems is all about cutting out the procedures and processes that don't contribute to the end goal. When used correctly, the TPS reduces wasted effort and time by improving material handling, inventory, quality, scheduling, and customer satisfaction. The payoff of using this type of system is well documented in the bottom lines of businesses that have adopted these strategies.
"The Toyota style is not to create results by working hard. It is a system that says there is no limit to people's creativity. People don't go to Toyota to 'work' they go there to 'think'.”
The overall theme of TPS is the elimination of waste. Inventory, idle equipment, materials, time, and other elements of manufacturing typically include a lot of waste that can be eliminated. By identifying this waste in each step of the manufacturing process, readers will often find problems they simply weren't aware existed. A couple of examples in areas that most readers will be familiar with reflect the impact of waste that is at the root of the TPS.
Inventory. Inventory can be one of the biggest areas for waste. It eats up capital, becomes obsolete, and takes up space and labor just sitting there. By minimizing the amount of inventory, companies can minimize much of the waste. Readers will learn that inventory is a factor as well as a reflection of the effectiveness of the overall manufacturing process.
People. TPS emphasizes the importance of having all employees participate in the system for it to be effective. Readers will learn that to function at the highest levels, people and technology must be integrated in a way where each compliments the other. This synergy of people and machines is structured to exploit the strengths and minimize the limitations of each component. By combining these elements and aligning them towards the same goals, waste is decreased, and efficiency is greater.
"The key to the Toyota Way and what makes Toyota stand out is not any of the individual elements…But what is important is having all the elements together as a system. It must be practiced every day in a very consistent manner, not in spurts.”
Any business that wants to become a lean organization can learn the thought process behind the TPS and increase profits by incorporating it into their company culture. By learning how to identify waste and eliminating it, and by keeping the system solidly in place, readers can see positive results whether they are building cars or building widgets.