Posted by: JC Gatlin | November 28, 2010

Lean Beginings… (part 3)

A New Direction

Taiichi Ohno February 12, 1912 - May 28, 1990

Beginning in 1948 and continuing through 1972, the founder of Toyota, Sakichi Toyoda, his son Kiichiro Toyoda, and the engineer Taiichi Ohno began developing the Toyota Production System. Drawing heavily on Fordism, it redesigned management philosophies and practices of the past.

When these men came to the United States to observe the assembly line and mass production that had made Ford rich, they were unimpressed. Despite Ford being the industry leader at that time, they found many of the methods in use to be ineffective: large amounts of inventory on site, work performed in various departments within the factory was uneven on most days, and a large amount of rework at the end of the process.

While shopping in a supermarket they observed the simple idea of an automatic drink resupplier; when the customer wants a drink, he takes a cup and another replaces it. They were also inspired by how the supermarket only reordered goods once they had been bought by the customer. Toyota applied the lessons from the Supermarket to its auto factories.

If production flows perfectly then there is no inventory; if customer valued features are the only ones produced, then product design is simplified and effort is only expended on features the customer values.

Behind the system, they worked intelligently, automating where they could and setting standards so that work was performed the same way every time. While Ford did not use the knowledge or expertise of its workers. Toyota would lead the world in that regard. Toyota organized around team development. This was to make rapid changes easier, also helping quality and increasing responsiveness to competitors.

That system enabled Toyota to close the productivity gap between its operations and those of its American rivals in the 1960s; earn a reputation for quality and reliability in the 1970s; and expand its product line to include cars of various sizes, trucks, vans, and SUVs in the 1980s and 1990s.

Taiichi Ohno wrote several books about the system, the most popular of which is Toyota Production System” Beyond Large-Scale Production and its follow-up Workplace Management.

© November 2010 Homebuilding Partners, Inc.   twitter-logo

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