Toyota Production System by TAIICHI OHNO

“Industrial society must develop the courage, or rather the common sense, to procure only what is needed when it is needed and in the amount needed.”

There have been several books written on Toyota and its revolutionary production system. Toyota was, after all, the first company to have taken full advantage of the concepts of just-in-time manufacturing and autonomation. But if you’d like to know how they did it, why not read a book by the man who is considered to be the “Father of the Toyota Production System” himself?

We are talking about Taiichi Ohno, of course, perhaps one of the most famous engineers in history. The man behind “Lean Manufacturing,” who was one of those responsible for making Japan the industrial superpower it eventually became, rising out of the ashes of the World War 2 defeat. It were men like Ohno who transformed Japan from a defeated country in the 1950’s to one of the major powers on the global stage by the 1980’s.

In this book, Ohno also remembers how it was when he started out. Back in the 1950’s, Japan only had a nascent auto industry, which was up against the mammoth Detroit based automobile industry that churned out 5 million cars a year.

Ohno saw an opening there as the US automobile sector made a large number of cars but there wasn’t much to differentiate the brands from each other. This led Ohno to investigate ways to introduce production techniques that created several different models of cars, but in small numbers – only as much as the demand warranted. This in essence was the genesis of the Toyota Production System.

This book is a ring side view on how the philosophies of just-in-time and autonomation came into being. Just-in-time was created out of Ohno’s goal to eliminate waste – all kinds of waste, from wasted time to wasted materials.

Ohno was a ruthless campaigner against waste and aimed for a 100% elimination of waste with Toyota. He wanted to create a super efficient system and he succeeded to a large extent with his goals.

Ohno’s Just-in-time manufacturing involved assembling engines only after receiving signals from upstream sources. This reduced waste and kept inventory to a minimum, thus creating massive savings for the company.

Autonomation was about intelligent machines, enabling a lathe, for example, to detect defective materials or parts. What autonomation did was to shift production from being dominated by skilled experts to being run by an army of semi-skilled generalists, thus cutting down labor costs considerably and reducing the hegemony of skilled technicians over the company.

In this book, Toyota Production System, you will find clues on how Taiichi Ohno transformed the Japanese automobile industry, and a close look at his philosophy of life and business.

Ohno is a remarkable man and his book is a special one too. Like him, it is completely bereft of any pretensions, simple, elegant, intelligent, and short – it lasts only 125 pages. But in these 125 pages you will get a comprehensive idea of how industrial supply chains work, and a better understanding of the thinking and philosophies that led to Japan’s rise as a major industrial power.

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