It is obvious that there is something special about Toyota. The Japanese automobile
manufacturer currently has the fastest product development process in the world. New cars and trucks take 12 months or less to design, while competitors typically require two to three years. Toyota has phenomenal quality levels, that rivals can only dream of matching.
Toyota has turned operational excellence into a strategic weapon not merely through tools and quality improvement methods but a deeper business philosophy rooted in
understanding of people and what motivates them. Its success is ultimately based on its
ability to develop leaders, build teams, and nurture a supportive culture, to devise strategy, to build deep supplier relationships, and to maintain a learning organization.
Jeffrey Liker is an authority on Toyota. Liker gives an excellent account of how Toyota
has become one of the best managed companies in the world. He also outlines how other
companies can learn from Toyota and improve their way of doing business. This book
makes excellent reading for leaders building learning organizations.
The Toyota Production System
Toyota developed the Toyota Production System after World War II. While Ford and GM
used mass production, economies of scale, and big equipment to produce as many parts as possible, as cheaply as possible, Toyota’s market in post-war Japan was small. Toyota also had to make a variety of vehicles on the same assembly line to satisfy its customers.
By making lead times short and focusing on keeping production lines flexible, Toyota realized it could actually get higher quality, better customer responsiveness, better productivity, and better utilization of equipment and space.
A basic premise of mass production is that machine downtime is obvious waste. A
machine shut down for repair is not making parts that could make money. But TPS has
challenged this notion.
Often the best thing you can do is to idle a machine and stop producing parts. Over
production, is a fundamental waste in TPS.
Often it is best to build up an inventory of finished goods in order to level out the
production schedule, rather than produce according to the actual fluctuating demand of
customer orders. Leveling out the schedule (heijunka) is a foundation for flow and pull
systems and for minimizing inventory in the supply chain. Leveling production smoothes out the volume and mix of items produced so there is little variation in production from day to days.
Often it is best to selectively add and substitute overhead for direct labor. When waste is
stripped away from value-adding workers, high-quality support has to be provided for…
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