Toyotal Production System Article

Optimizing Efficiency: Inside the Toyota Production System


The Toyota Production System (TPS) has long been revered as a cornerstone of industrial engineering and operational efficiency. Developed by the Japanese automaker in the mid-20th century, it revolutionised the world of manufacturing by introducing principles such as "Just-In-Time" production and "Jidoka" (automation with a human touch). These innovations were aimed at reducing waste, improving product quality, and enhancing overall productivity. As businesses across various sectors strive to optimise their operations in today's fast-paced environment, understanding the intricacies of TPS can offer valuable insights. This article delves into the core components of the Toyota Production System, exploring how its methodologies have set new standards for manufacturing excellence and how they can be adapted to modern-day challenges.

Why is Toyota’s production revered globally? It’s the efficiency and quality forged by the Toyota Production System (TPS). This article cuts to the core of TPS, examining the mechanisms that drive Toyota’s unmatched production prowess and illustrating how those principles can be leveraged beyond the automotive realm.

Key Takeaways

  • The Toyota Production System (TPS) eliminates waste and inefficiency, emphasizing adaptability and continuous improvement through principles such as Lean Manufacturing, Just-In-Time production, and Jidoka.

  • The development of TPS was inspired by multiple sources, including American supermarkets, and was driven by leaders like Taiichi Ohno, influencing not only automotive manufacturing but also various industries by promoting continuous improvement and direct problem-solving.

  • TPS principles have been integrated globally within multiple sectors, demonstrating the system’s versatility and fostering a culture of efficient resource utilization, continuous improvement, and mutual trust with suppliers.

Understanding the Toyota Production System


Illustration of a production line in a manufacturing facility

Toyota Motor Corporation revolutionized the production industry with the development of the Toyota Production System (TPS). This innovative approach prioritizes resource conservation by eliminating waste and inconsistency, aiming to create processes that are both efficient and adaptable. This resource-conserving framework, through the philosophy of ‘Good Thinking, Good Products,’ is a continuous journey of improvement, making it a highly efficient and evolving system.

The significant effects on process value delivery by TPS are achieved by:

  • Designing a process capable of delivering the required results smoothly

  • Designing out inconsistency (mura)

  • Ensuring flexibility without overburden (muri)

Lean Manufacturing System


Central to TPS is the lean manufacturing concept, which emphasizes the absolute elimination of waste and refines all production aspects to attain the highest possible efficiency. The system values tested technology that supports the human element rather than replacing it. This ensures that workers are aided by technology but not made redundant by it, resulting in a harmonious blend of human wisdom and technological prowess.

Tasks are standardized and visual control systems implemented to minimize errors and enhance communication among production line workers, thereby boosting overall efficiency. Moreover, TPS implements a continuous improvement cycle known as ‘kaizen,’ which involves standardizing procedures, achieving stability, and challenging the status quo to expose and rectify inefficiencies within the system.

Two Main Conceptual Pillars


The edifice of TPS rests on two main conceptual pillars: Just-In-Time production and Jidoka. The Just-In-Time concept aims to eliminate waste, inconsistencies, and unreasonable demands by producing only what is needed for the next process in a continuous flow, thereby improving productivity. This concept is designed to quickly fulfill customer orders by operating an efficient production process that adheres to precise instructions, maintains a well-stocked line, and produces vehicles in the shortest possible time.

Jidoka, on the other hand, loosely translated to ‘automation with a human touch,’ is crucial within TPS for enabling equipment to stop immediately when a problem is detected. This prevents the production of defective products and ensures the maintenance of quality. Furthermore, Jidoka also encompasses transferring human skills and craftsmanship to machines, thereby enhancing system reliability and safety through continuous improvement, a principle known as kaizen.

The Evolution of Toyota’s Manufacturing Process


Illustration of Sakichi Toyoda's automatic loom invention

The roots of TPS lie in Sakichi Toyoda’s automatic loom invention, which incorporated decision-making capabilities to avert defects. This innovative thinking was carried forward by Taiichi Ohno and Eiji Toyoda, Japanese industrial engineers, who developed the Toyota Production System between 1948 and 1975, with contributions from individuals such as Shigeo Shingo.

Kiichiro Toyoda, son of Sakichi Toyoda, expanded on Sakichi’s principles by focusing on waste elimination along production lines, leading to the creation of the Just-in-Time method. The result? A socio-technical system encapsulating Toyota’s management philosophy and practices.

Influence of American Supermarkets


American supermarkets, surprisingly, inspired the Just-In-Time philosophy integral to TPS. Kiichiro Toyoda was particularly impressed by their operational efficiency. The supermarkets’ approach of restocking items based on what was sold and needed served as a model for supplying parts on the production line in the TPS.

This observation led to the development of a manufacturing system focused on efficient inventory management, aiming for only minimal inventory and waste elimination. The goal was to create a system where resources are harmoniously utilized to add value without creating waste, a hallmark of TPS.

Taiichi Ohno’s Contributions


Taiichi Ohno significantly influenced the philosophy and principles of TPS. He emphasized key concepts such as:

  • The importance of observing problems directly

  • Eliminating wasted motion from work processes

  • The principle of Genchi Genbutsu, which involves going to the source to find the facts to make correct decisions

This principle is versatile enough to be used in various business areas outside manufacturing, ensuring business operations continuously adapt and improve.

In his book ‘Workplace Management’, Ohno detailed the implementation of the Toyota Production System in 38 chapters, contributing significantly to the dissemination and understanding of TPS. His work continues to be a guiding light for anyone looking to understand and implement TPS principles.

Key Principles of the Toyota Way


Illustration of the Toyota Way's 14 key principles

Toyota’s TPS principles have expanded beyond Japan and the automotive industry, culminating in a worldwide corporate philosophy known as the Toyota Way. This philosophy is structured around 14 key principles which serve as the foundation of lean manufacturing, including a long-term philosophy, creating a continuous flow, and employing the pull system to avoid overproduction.

These principles have shaped Toyota’s strategies, interactions, and even its ethical audits and sustainability practices.

Respect for People


The principle of ‘Respect for People’ is a cornerstone of the Toyota Way. Leaders are expected to understand, embody, and teach its tenets to ensure it permeates the cultural fabric of the company. This principle promotes an environment where individuals are valued and respected for their ability to think and grow, challenging employees to realize their full potential.

Respect for People is underpinned by ‘Respect’ and ‘Teamwork’, where mutual trust, responsibility, understanding, and the stimulation of personal and professional growth are key to maximizing individual and team performance. Exceptional individuals and teams within Toyota are curated by ingraining the company’s philosophy deeply within them, nurturing an understanding and dedication towards the company’s values and operational practices.

Moreover, a paramount application of the Respect for People principle is the commitment to ensuring a safe work environment, signifying the inherent value placed on employee welfare at Toyota.

Problem-Solving and Organizational Learning


Toyota’s philosophy revolves around continuous improvement (Kaizen) and reflection (Hansei), fostering a culture of perpetual learning within the company. Toyota’s problem-solving methodology inculcates rigorous and disciplined thinking, emphasizing thorough understanding and storytelling strategies for addressing issues. Every Toyota employee is trained in the problem-solving process, fostering a corporate culture where each individual engages in resolving issues.

Problems at Toyota are categorized by size, with corresponding training and methodologies adapted to the scale of the issue. The application of Toyota’s improvement and respect principles has led to more flexible machinery and process adaptability, showcasing a commitment to continuous innovation. Toyota enacts change continuously, with improvements being made even on the last day of a product cycle, illustrating a relentless drive for efficiency.

Implementing TPS in Other Industries


Illustration of TPS implementation in non-automotive manufacturing

The Toyota Production System’s versatility is demonstrated through its implementation in diverse American companies like General Motors and Herman Miller, highlighting its relevance outside the automotive industry. Through the Toyota Production System Support Center, a not-for-profit arm of Toyota North America, TPS methodologies have been disseminated to over 350 diverse organizations, including government entities, non-profits, and small to mid-sized manufacturers.

TPS in Non-Automotive Manufacturing


TPS principles have been adapted for healthcare to:

  • Improve the flow of patient care

  • Improve the quality of life for healthcare workers

  • Reduce waste

  • Focus on continuous improvement

In healthcare, TPS integration ensures highly specified work regarding patient interactions, aiming to improve processes such as detailed patient medical records for enhanced patient care.

Lean tools from TPS have been applied to healthcare operational aspects, focusing on tasks and the organizational structure and culture to ensure successful TPS implementation. Non-automotive companies have adopted TPS principles to:

  • Improve decision-making

  • Bolster continuous improvement

  • Engage in hands-on management

  • Engage in direct problem-solving.

TPS in Office Environments


The Toyota Production System’s principles are adaptable to office and service environments, focusing on optimizing resources and streamlining processes. For instance, the Virginia Mason Medical Center successfully integrated TPS principles to form the Virginia Mason Production System, leading to improved quality and safety, reduced work burden, and decreased healthcare costs.

The Food Bank For New York City used Toyota’s TPS assistance to make waiting times shorter at soup kitchens and a food pantry. They also reduced packing times at a food distribution center.

The Global Impact of Toyota’s Production System


Illustration of the global impact of Toyota's production system

The worldwide influence of the Toyota Production System is clear from its extensive adoption across multiple industries and its evolution into the globally acknowledged management concept, the Toyota Way, which shapes organizational cultures and continuous improvement philosophies across various sectors.

Furthermore, the principles of TPS continue to evolve and influence global manufacturing practices beyond their original automotive applications.

TPS as a Management Concept


Influenced by American supermarkets, the Toyota Production System has evolved into a globally respected management concept that shapes organizational cultures and fosters continuous improvement philosophies across a range of sectors beyond manufacturing. Notably, Taiichi Ohno’s innovations within TPS, such as fostering a continuous improvement culture, have significantly shaped Toyota’s organizational philosophy and have been disseminated across various industries globally.

Central to the TPS approach is the cycle of manual work and continuous improvement, which is fundamental to Toyota’s manufacturing expertise and crucial to the development of both its human resources and technology. This approach fosters a culture where tasks are done thoughtfully, with attention to detail and a commitment to continuous improvement.

Building Mutual Trust with Suppliers


Toyota’s Supplier Relationship Management (SRM) system, a key component of the effective Toyota Production System, is rooted in:

  • Mutual trust and long-term commitment

  • An environment of respect and challenges for suppliers

  • Applying the concept of Genchi Genbutsu to gain insights into operations and foster improvements

  • Maintaining open lines of communication

Through the Toyota Way, the company promotes these principles to ensure a strong and collaborative relationship with its suppliers.

Toyota nurtures long-term contracts with suppliers, sharing cost savings and technological advances, thus incentivizing suppliers to:

  • Innovate and establish themselves as integral partners in growing their capabilities alongside Toyota

  • Be involved in Toyota’s continuous improvement practices and joint problem-solving initiatives

  • Receive training and feedback to stay abreast of new methodologies and contribute to advancements in the production process

This approach ensures that suppliers are actively engaged in the improvement and innovation efforts of Toyota.

To manage risks within the supplier relationships, Toyota implements strategic measures such as maintaining backup suppliers and geographically diversifying its supplier base to ensure continuity in production and safeguard against regional disruptions.



In essence, the Toyota Production System (TPS) is a globally recognized framework that revolutionizes production processes across industries. Its principles of lean manufacturing, respect for people, and continuous improvement have transformed organizational cultures and shaped the Toyota Way. Its adaptability and versatility have seen its successful implementation in non-automotive industries and office environments, contributing to its global impact. As you move forward, remember the essence of TPS: a relentless pursuit of continuous improvement, respect for people, and a commitment to creating value by eliminating waste.

Frequently Asked Questions


Why is Toyota production slow?

Toyota production is slow due to global supply chain disruptions, such as delayed delivery of chips, leading to production stoppages and financial strain on the company. This has caused significant disruptions in the automotive industry.

Why is Toyota stopping production?

Toyota is stopping production due to admitting to decades of safety test “irregularities.” This decision is a result of the company’s commitment to addressing this issue.

How many cars can Toyota produce in a day?

Toyota can produce approximately 23,814 cars in a day around the world, which accounts for about 15% of all passenger cars created daily.

Is Toyota increasing production?

Yes, Toyota is planning to increase its global vehicle production to about 10.3 million vehicles by 2024, aiming to renew its record annual production for the second consecutive year. This increase is due to strong sales of hybrid vehicles.

What is the Toyota Production System (TPS)?

The Toyota Production System (TPS) is a framework developed by Toyota Motor Corporation to conserve resources by eliminating waste and design out overburden and inconsistency. It aims to eliminate waste.

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Reagan Pannell

Reagan Pannell

Reagan Pannell is a highly accomplished professional with 15 years of experience in building lean management programs for corporate companies. With his expertise in strategy execution, he has established himself as a trusted advisor for numerous organisations seeking to improve their operational efficiency.

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