Lean Manufacturing: Toyota Production System Research Paper

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Both “Lean Manufacturing” and the “Toyota Production System” encompass a philosophy that incorporates various tools and techniques into business processes. The goal is to optimize time, human resources, assets, and productivity while also improving the quality of products and services for customers. Embracing a “Lean” mindset necessitates dedication to a process and can offer valuable learning experiences when implementing Lean principles within an organization.

The term Lean in the manufacturing environment also refers to the Toyota Production system established by the Toyota Corporation. Within the organization, four prominent gentlemen are credited with developing the system: Sakichi Toyoda, who founded the Toyoda Group in 1902; Kiichiro Toyoda, son of Sakichi Toyoda, who headed the automobile manufacturing operation between 1936 and 1950; Eiji Toyoda, Managing Director between 1950 and 1981 and Chairman between 1981 and 1994; and Taiichi Ohno, the Father of the Kanban System.

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Sakichi Toyoda created a power loom in 1902 and later developed an automatic loom in 1926. This innovative loom had the ability to detect broken threads and automatically halt production to prevent the creation of subpar products. In that same year, Sakichi established the Toyoda Automatic Loom Works, a company dedicated to manufacturing these automatic looms. In 1937, he sold his automatic loom patents to an English company in order to fund a new automobile manufacturing venture, which was led by his son Kiichiro.

During this time in Yokohama, Japan, the Ford Motor Company was producing both Model A cars and trucks while also converting a plant that previously manufactured Model Ts. Ford held the leading position as Japan’s largest automobile manufacturer, with General Motors following closely as the second largest. Together, these two companies accounted for over 90% of the country’s vehicle production.

In 1936, Kiichiro Toyoda, son of Sakichi Toyoda who focused on engines and automobiles rather than textiles and loom production convinced his father to establish an automotive operation. This new and risky venture by the Toyoda Group marked a significant shift from their traditional business focus.

As the managing director of the new operation, Kiichiro traveled to the Ford Motor Company in Detroit to study the American automotive industry for a year. Upon his return to Japan, Kiichiro was equipped with extensive knowledge of the Ford production system, which he aimed to adapt for smaller production quantities. Alongside the smaller production quantities, Kiichiro’s system incorporated various changes in the assembly sequence of production, the logistics of material simultaneous to production consumption, and a supplier network capable of providing component material as needed.

The Toyoda Group called the system Just-in-Time. Eiji Toyoda, who was Sakichi Toyoda’s nephew, became part of the family business, Toyoda Automatic Loom Works, after graduating from the University of Tokyo in 1936. When the Japanese government mandated a reorganization of the Toyoda Group, Kiichiro Toyoda, Eiji’s uncle, had to comply. As a result, Eiji became the Managing Director of Toyoda Automotive Works in 1950. The reorganization led to Kiichiro and his entire staff resigning and the separation of the family businesses.

During his first year as Managing Director, Eiji went to the United States to examine the American automotive industry and assess American manufacturing techniques. Among the places he visited was the Ford Motor Company, which greatly influenced him. After coming back to Japan, Eiji was resolute in revolutionizing the Toyoda Automotive Works plants. One significant insight he gained from his trip was about Ford’s suggestion system. Eiji decided to adopt this idea, which later became an essential element of the Toyota Production System known for its continuous improvement (Kaizen).

In 1957, Eiji changed the name of the Toyoda automotive operation to The Toyota Company. Then, in 1983, he renamed it again to the Toyota Motor Corporation. Additionally, in 1982, he established the Toyota Motor Sales USA. After that, in 1986, Eiji went back to the United States to continue studying the American automotive industry. When he returned to Japan, he presented the employees with new challenges. He emphasized that the Toyota Motor Corporation should not simply copy the American automotive industry, but rather strive to produce superior automobiles by employing creativity, resourcefulness, wisdom, and hard work.

As the creator of the Toyota Production System and the Father of the Kanban System, Taiichi Ohno joined the Toyoda Automatic Loom Works in 1932 after graduating from Nogoya Technical High School. During his early career, Ohno built upon Kiichito Toyoda’s JIT concepts in order to minimize waste. He conducted experiments and developed methods to efficiently produce necessary components and subassemblies to support final assembly.

During World War II, the Loom Works was transformed into a Motors Works and Taiichi Ohno transitioned to producing car and truck parts. The war led to the destruction of all Toyoda Group Works production facilities. However, under the leadership of Eiji Toyoda, the plants were progressively reconstructed. Taiichi Ohno played a crucial part in implementing the JIT principles and methodologies that were developed in the Loom manufacturing processes.

At the reconstructed Toyoda Group Automotive Operations, Taiichi Ohno efficiently managed the machining operations despite material shortages caused by the war. Over time, he enhanced the assembly operations by introducing improved methods. The Toyota Production System, created as a result of these developments, stemmed from two concepts. The first concept, derived from Henry Ford’s book Today and Tomorrow published in 1926, formed the foundation of a manufacturing production system.

During a visit in 1956, the author observed the supermarket operations in the United States, which served as the basis for the second concept. This concept focused on the continuous supply of materials, similar to how supermarkets provide a constant flow of merchandise on their shelves. Two other individuals who contributed to the development of the Toyota Production System were Shigeo Shingo, a quality consultant hired by Toyota who played a key role in implementing quality initiatives, and Edward Deming, who introduced Statistical Process Control to Japan.

The principles and practices of Lean have been developed over a 90-year period, evolving through trial and error and the contributions of many prominent individuals. However, implementing these principles and practices is not easy, as many companies can attest. Successful implementation requires the commitment and support of management, as well as the participation of all personnel within an organization.

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