A short summary of the Toyota Production System

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The innovative Toyota Production System (TPS) is often given credit for making Toyota the company it is today – a leader in the automotive manufacturing and production industry. Working intelligently to minimize waste and inventory are the key components behind it – but understanding why and how to reduce them is just as important if you’re trying to implement the TPS practices in your own business.

An interesting point to note about the system is that it has a definite human focus as well – it’s not only about machines – it’s just as much about the people that operate and maintain them. In fact is also nicknamed the ‘Thinking People System’.

Let’s take a look at what the system is and why it works so well.

The main objectives of the TPS are to eliminate muri (overburden), mura (inconsistency) and muda (waste). Muda (waste) is categorized into seven types:

1. Waste of overproduction
2. Waste of time
3. Waste of transportation
4. Waste of the processing itself
5. Waste of stock at hand
6. Waste of movement
7. Waste of making defective products

The three most important objectives of the TPS are:
 Providing the customer with the highest quality product, at the lowest cost, and with the shortest possible lead time.
 Providing employees with work satisfaction, job security and fair treatment.
 Providing the company with the flexibility to respond to a changing market, achieving profit through cost reduction and long term prosperity.

Originally called ‘just-in-time’ production, TPS is a major precursor of today’s ‘lean manufacturing’ movement. It was developed by the founder of Toyota, Sakichi Toyada and engineer Taaichi Ohno in 1948 and outlined in the book ‘The Toyota Way’.

One of the most important aspects of TPS is the philosophy of ‘kaizen’ or continuous improvement. Part of using the system is understanding that every company or production line is different, and every process needs its own unique approach when tackling the areas where waste can be reduced. In a way it is constantly aiming for an ideal, for a state of perfection where:
• The customer’s needs are met – at the right time and in the right amount.
• The company is able to adapt quickly to changes in customer demands or schedules.
• Inventory of all types is minimized.
• Quality is built into ever process to prevent errors from occurring.
• Lead times and changeover times are minimized.
• Machine and human work is separated, and each is used to their full potential.
• A large variety of low volume products can be produced efficiently.

In an on-going attempt to reach this state, TPS calls for development in 5 areas: the left and right pillars, the cornerstones, the foundation, and the center – which is human development.

The foundation – Heijunka or Leveling:
• Stabilize production schedule variability
• Reduce total lead time
• Coordinate sales and scheduling with the needs of the customer

The cornerstones – standardized work:
• Find and document the best current method to set the benchmark for improvement
• Make these standards visible throughout the company
• Ask everyone for their input and value their ideas – treat people with respect
• The philosophy of kaizen or continuous improvement – make small improvements every day

The left pillar – Just-in-Time:
• Eliminate the 7 types of waste
• Synchronize and balance workflow – create a smooth flow of material and information
• Minimize inventory and lead times
• Make the progress of work more visible

The right pillar – Jidoka, automation:
• Build quality into the process – not just QC at the end
• Separate the work of men and machines
• Use intelligent, low cost automation
• Mistake-proof equipment wherever possible, and make problems more visible when they do occur
• Make equipment safer and more reliable

Center – Human Development:
• Teamwork, leadership roles and responsibility
• Training
• Problem solving
• Encouraging feedback and suggestions from employees

The input and advice of the people at a company is crucial when implementing TPS – their creativity is invaluable in finding new ways in which systems can be made more efficient or waste reduced – and that’s why people form the center of TPS. Once it is implemented, it still requires people to help sustain it. They are both an essential input in the system, and also the ones who stand to benefit the most.

Hope this helps to summarize the massive amount of information out there…cheers!

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