The Toyota Production System

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The Toyota Production System

A Case Study of Creativity and Innovation in Automotive Engineering


Automobile Manufacturing

Forty years ago, Peter Drucker dubbed it "the industries of industries." Today, automobile manufacturing is still the world's largest manufacturing activity. After First World War, Henry Ford and General Motors' Alfred Sloan moved world manufacture from centuries of craft production(led by European firms(into the age of mass production. Largely as a result, the United States soon dominated the world economy.

toyota-production-system' class='brand-secondary'>Toyota Production System

After Second World War, Eiji Toyoda and Taiichi Ohno at the Toyota motor company in Japan pioneered the concept of Toyota Production System. The rise of Japan to its current economic pre-eminence quickly followed, as other companies and industries copied this remarkable system. Manufacturers around the world are now trying to embrace this innovative system, but they are finding the going rough. The companies that first mastered this system were all head-quartered in one country-Japan. However, many Western companies now understand Toyota Production System, and at least one is well along the path of introducing it. Superimposing this method on the existing mass-production systems causes great pain and dislocation.

This essay, I believe, is an effort to explain the necessary transition from mass production to revolutionary production called Toyota production System. By focusing on the global auto industry, this essay explains in simple, concrete terms what the Toyota Production System is, where it came from , how it really works, and how it can spread to all corners of the globe for everyone's mutual benefit. The global adaptation, as it inevitably spreads beyond the auto industry, will change everything in almost every industry-choices of customers, the nature of work, the fortune of companies, and, ultimately, the fate of nations.

What is Toyota Production System? Perhaps the best way to describe this innovative production system is to contrast it with craft production and mass production, the two other methods humans have devised to make things.

Production methods

The craft producer uses highly skilled workers and simple but flexible tools to make exactly what the customer asks for—one item at a time. Few exotic sports cars provide current day examples. We all love the idea of craft production, but the problem with it is obvious: Goods produced by the craft method—as automobiles once were exclusively—cost too much for most of us to afford. So mass production was developed at the beginning of the twentieth century as an alternative.
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