Toyota Production System

The “Thinking” Production System:

TPS as a winning strategy for developing people in the global manufacturing environment

At the 2003 Automotive Parts System Solution Fair held in Tokyo, June 18, 2003, Teruyuki Minoura, Toyota’s an aging director of global purchasing at the time, talked about his experiences with TPS (the Toyota Production System), and what it means for suppliers and for the future of the auto industry.

At the 2003 Automotive Parts System Solution Fair, held in Tokyo, June 18, 2003, Teruyuki Minoura, then-managing director of global purchasing, Toyota Motor Corporation, talked about his experiences with TPS (the Toyota Production System), and what it means for suppliers and for the future of the auto industry.

Teruyuki MinouraTeruyuki Minoura is confident that the long-standing principles of the Toyota Production System will not change in the future, and that TPS will be able to meet any challenge. He noted that the system originally emerged through a trial-and-error approach aimed at solving practical problems and meeting the needs of the company. Recalling painful memories of the labor dispute of 1950 that destroyed so many friendships, he observed, “Businesses suffer if efforts are devoted to raising productivity when the products themselves cannot sell.” It was through such experiences, that the basic concept of just-in-time was born.

In simplest terms, Just-in-time is “all about producing only what’s needed and transferring only what’s needed,” says Minoura. Instead of the old top-down “push” system, it represented a change to a “pull” system where workers go and fetch only what is required. Tools, including the kanban (information card), andon (display board), and poka yoke (error prevention) were developed to implement the pull system. But, Minoura warns “simply introducing kanban cards or andon boards doesn’t mean you’ve implemented the Toyota Production System, for they remain nothing more than mere tools. The new information technologies are no exception, and they should also be applied and implemented as tools.”

Early in his career, Minoura worked under Taiichi Ohno, recognized as the creator of the Toyota Production System. Ohno, through tireless trial and error, managed to put into practice a “pull” system that stopped the factory producing unnecessary items. But Minoura observes that it was only by developing this “loose collection of techniques” into a fully-fledged system, dubbed the Toyota Production System or TPS, that they were able to deploy this throughout the company.

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