Toyota has long been recognised as the king of production line philosophy.
The highly influential Toyota Production System (TPS) was developed and refined over the decades after World War 2 by the Japanese company.
It’s widely held that Toyota – primarily in the form of company founder Kiichiro Toyoda and engineer Taiichi Ohno – also came up with the principle of ‘just-in-time’ production, which was a further advance on TPS.
The success of these philosophies was so all-encompassing that Toyota was called in to advise Porsche at the start of the 1990s, when the German manufacturer was close to collapse.
Some of the principles involved became well known across the world. Phrases such as ‘Kaizen’ (roughly, continuous improvement) and ‘poka-yoke’ (systems to prevent errors) became common currency in academia and business schools. Indeed, attempts were made to adapt what began in the car factory to improve the functioning of all sorts of businesses, many not remotely involved in manufacturing.
Ultimately, the TPS is based around the idea of eliminating waste of all kinds during the production process. The ‘wastes’ have been boiled down to seven broad categories. These include over-production, too much stock, too many manufacturing operations, delays in the flow of components and what’s called the ‘production of defects’. The idea of stopping a whole production line until a fault was fixed was another widely adopted Toyota innovation.
The rise and rise of just-in-time production has probably done most to change the face of car manufacturing over the past three decades. Toyota’s principle of having components arrive just in time at the production line, so they could be fitted immediately, has led to the growth of huge supplier parks around factories.