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The Toyota Production System: Extended Entry

The Toyota Production System was first developed in the early 1900's as a method to reduce waste while producing goods. Taiichi Ohno and Eiji Toyoda are given credit for developing the Toyota Production System (TPS) which is also known as lean manufacturing. The TPS system was developed between 1948 and 1975. Ironically the idea for lean manufacturing came to Toyoda when he was in a supermarket. He observed the simple idea of creating an automatic drink re-supplier, when a customer wants a drink he takes it and it is replaced with another.

Toyota defines waste as being three-form, muri (overburden), mura (inconsistency), and muda (eliminate waste). Muri or overburden is considered to be all the unreasonable work that management assigns upon workers and machines due to poor organization. Some examples of muri are carrying heavy weights, dangerous tasks (behavior-based safety issues), and working at a significantly faster than normal pace. Muri defines this work as pushing a person or machine to a pace beyond their normal limits. Muri is associated with the preparation or planning phase of the production process.

Mura or inconsistency focuses on the implementation and elimination of fluctuation of scheduling. This usually falls to the operations level to schedule the quality and volume of the production process. Finally, muda or waste elimination is dealt with after the process is completed. Management oversees muda and should consider how to eliminate the deeper causes of muda formed in muri and mura. Once the causes are determined, management will then use them in the next project and slowly begin eliminating all waste together.

Muda has 7 different kinds of variables that will help to eliminate or reduce the production of waste.
1. Over-production
2. Waiting
3. Transporting
4. Inappropriate Processing
5. Unnecessary Inventory
6. Unnecessary/Excess Motion
7. Defects

Helpful Resources:
7 Manufacturing Wastes
This web site discusses the 7 manufacturing wastes. It provides information on how you can reduce or eliminate the wastes from your company. You can also sign up with this consulting company to learn how to reduce waste from your company.

Toyota's Lean Manufacturing

This web site provides information on lean manufacturing and how Taichii Ohno created it for Toyota. It is an excellent web site if you want to learn about the wastes identified by many companies including individuals like Henry Ford and Eli Whitney.

Wikipedia provides an excellent definition of lean manufacturing. They provide you with extensive background information and how manufacturing companies have implemented lean manufacturing to reduce costs and eliminate waste.

Lean Manufacturing
This is a lean manufacturing company. They provide you with a brief overview about lean manufacturing and how they can help your company eliminate waste. You can contact them via internet or telephone.

Reducing Waste
This is an excellent definition of lean manufacturing. You can learn about the seven types of waste and what companies are doing to reduce waste. Rockford Consulting will also provide you with a third-party approach to reducing waste.

Philosophies of the Toyota Production System

This article discusses the Toyota Production System and how you can use the philosophies of TPS to reduce wastes in your workplace. This is an informative web site for anyone who would like to use TPS.

Toyota Production System (TPS)

This web site provides in depth information about the Toyota Production System and why Toyota is one of the most successful car manufacturers in the world. It also provides you with tips on how to implement TPS in your company.

Lean Manufacturing Training
This company specializes in providing lean manufacturing training to your business. You can review all the different options of lean manufacturing such as the 5S approach, the Toyota Production System, and visual control.

Lean Manufacturing Environment in the Workplace
This is a great web site on how you can create a lean manufacturing environment in the workplace. They give you handy tips on how you can do this and provide scenarios on how lean manufacturing can be effective.

Implementing the Toyota Production System
This web site provides tips you can use to implement the Toyota Production System into your company. There are visual images you can view to understand how the Toyota Production System works and how you can eliminate waste.

In order to obtain a greater understanding of lean manufacturing, it will help to look at the 7 wastes of muda in depth:

Over-production. Many companies manufacture an item before it is needed. This is considered a waste because it costs the company money and decreases the quality and productivity of the manufacturing process. Overproduction results in higher costs for storage, excessive lead times, and it makes detecting the defects quite difficult. The solution for overproduction is to stop producing materials and only produce what can be immediately sold or shipped.

Waiting. Waiting refers to the waste of goods that are not moving. As you already may be aware, much of a product's life is spent waiting for the next phase. The reason this is considered a waste is because the good should never be waiting. If they are waiting it is due to poor material flow, long production runs, or travel distances.

Transporting. Moving your product from one location adds no value to your product. Many products are damaged or lost, casing a waste of money. Transporting also requires the use of material handlers, and this also adds no value to the product. This is one waste that is difficult to reduce or eliminate. Mapping the flow of your product may be one way you can gain a greater understanding of the transportation phase and learn how to reduce the costs.

Inappropriate Processing. Several companies purchase high precision equipment to do a simple job. High precision equipment often leads to over-production of goods.

Unnecessary Inventory. Excessive inventory is a direct result of overproduction and waiting. Having excessive inventory will lead to increased lead times, limited floor space, and poor communication. Too much inventory often masks problems from other areas as well.

Unnecessary / Excess Motion. This phase is often related to behavior-based safety. It is the unnecessary bending, stretching, walking, lifting and reaching of an employee. Often the motion is not due to the employees behavior, but the machine they are operating may be manufactured poorly and the employee is unable to turn a knob (or something similar) without using poor ergonomics. This waste leads to health and safety issues, which obviously lead to bigger problems.


Defects in the manufacturing process are a tremendous cost to a company. Any small defect directly impacts your bottom line and effects inventory, scheduling, inspection, and other factors. A minor defect can cost your company more than the entire manufacturing cost to begin with.

As technology has grown, so has the "seven wastes". Employees have now been added as an eighth waste. Many companies do not employ their staff for their creative skills, only for their muscles and nimble fingers. Several organizations have learned that by capitalizing on their employees creative skills, they can eliminate some of the other wastes all together.

By evaluating the seven wastes, you can determine where your company is lacking and where you can reduce or eliminate waste altogether. Toyota implemented their TPS program and reduced costs and leadtime and improved the quality of their products. Now, Toyota is one of the world's largest companies. In fact, Toyota is as profitable as all the other car companies combined and in 2007 they because the largest car manufacturer! This is quite an accomplishment for a company who was once just a small auto manufacturer. This is why several other companies have adopted lean manufacturing. Successful implementation of lean manufacturing is the key to your company's success at reducing waste.

Originally lean manufacturing was called "just in time". This changed to the term lean manufacturing and it is now called TPS. Many credit Toyota for having a human touch to their automation process. They are given this credit because their production machines have enough intelligence to recognize when they are working abnormally and they have a system that flags themselves for needing human attention. This means that humans only have to focus on the abnormal, fault, or conditions versus the normal production. It removes the day-to-day routine element that causes disinterest in many humans, therefore causing defects to occur.

Several companies have adopted the Toyota mentoring process called Senpai and Kohai. Senpai and Kohai are essential elements of Japanese age-based status relationships. They are similar to a family relationship, which is decided upon age. In western culture, Senpai and Kohai can be compared to the concept of a mentor. This mentoring approach works like this: an older sibling begins a company and mentors their younger sibling; the younger sibling will eventually have enough insight to become the mentor to the older sibling. It is a process of "thinking up and down" the organizational structure. Employee A effects the steps of Employee B who effect Employee C and so on. This process has been taken by Toyota and it has helped their suppliers to improve their production as well.

There is another mentoring approach which is similar to Senpai and Kohai, it is called "Lean Sensei". Lean Sensei encourages your company to seek out outside, third-party experts who will provide coaching, advice, and unbiased opinions to your company.

Of course you do not need to implement a mentoring approach to make lean manufacturing successful, it is just an added tool to increase your company's potential to reduce waste and improve performance.

Toyota has been so successful with their Toyota Production System that it has set the example for several other organized. The success behind Toyota's success is their philosophy of putting the customer first. Toyota is known for empowering their workers to create a customer-driven workplace. The employees at Toyota have high morale and job satisfaction due to the fact that their management is so successful in implementing the Toyota Production System. Employees who are satisfied in their job are more likely to produce reliable, quality products with less room for error. Many car manufacturers are successful at providing quality products, but lack in customer satisfaction. This is where the Toyota Production System has proven its success. The human resource department of Toyota prides itself on making and establishing good supplier networks and distribution systems. They work hard to achieve customer satisfaction by training their employees to work for the customer.

The Toyota Production System does not just use flow production, cellular manufacturing or load leveling, it is not concerned primarily with making a profit. The real benefit to the Toyota Production System is increasing customer satisfaction, while producing the highest possible quality product at the lowest cost in the shortest lead-time, while developing the workforce through improvement techniques and problem solving methods.

By implementing the Toyota Production System, you will reduced unnecessary wastes that you might not know even exist. You will also increase your employee's job satisfaction, causing them to stay motivated and work harder at achieving the common goal of customer satisfaction. In the end you should always remain focused at eliminating or reducing waste, improving the quality of your products, lowering the cost it takes to make your product, increase the safety in your workplace, while increasing the morale of your employees.

The Toyota Production System is a proven method that does work. With the right implementation procedures and the right managers, your company can find success and stay successful for years to come.

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