The Toyota Production System (TPS) is spreading across businesses worldwide. Once implemented it can speed up processes, reduce waste, improve quality and cut cost. TPS is constantly gaining popularity and we can thank one businessman in particular for its creation: Taiichi Ohno.
Ohno, who is considered the father of Lean Manufacturing, would have celebrated his 100th birthday this year. If you’re interested in lean then you may already be familiar with Ohno’s work, however some of you may be asking: why is Ohno relevant to me?
To answer that question, lets take a look at the origin of lean.
Alongside Sakichi Toyoda and his son Kiichiro Toyoda, Ohno created the Toyota Production System which eventually became known as Lean Manufacturing.
Sakichi Toyoda (founder of the Toyota Group) had an interesting invention related to TPS. In 1902, he invented automatic looms that would stop automatically if any of the threads snapped. This meant that one operator could handle dozens of looms. His invention prevented low quality products being made because the loom would stop producing products after a problem occurred. Designing equipment to stop automatically and highlight problems is a main component to the Toyota Production System. It is a principle that can be found on all production lines at Toyota.
Okay, so back to Taiichi Ohno. (February 29, 1912 – May 28, 1990).
Ohno, born in Dalian, China, began his career by working for Toyota Automatic Loom works – the Toyoda family’s first business. The Toyoda family sold the Automatic Loom works to a Biritsh company and used the money to enter the automobile manufacturing industry. Toyota’s level of production was far behind that of the U.S auto industry, so it became Toyota’s goal to catch up within three years.
Ohno believed that the downfall of Toyota was wastefulness and inefficiency, so he set out to eliminate waste in the area of production that was his responsibility. The idea ‘to eliminate waste’ was crucial to the creation of TPS. There are a few parts of this system that are now frequently used in the United States: for example, kanban (the tags that are used in a just-in-time stock control system), jidoka (the injection of quality) and muda (waste elimination). The U.S auto industry has benefited greatly from using Ohno’s methods.
It is important to remember that also 100 years ago, Henry Ford opened his Highland Park assembly plant where he would show the power of flow production. This is central to what we now call lean. Ohno stated that he adapted many features of Ford’s system and that he shared with Ford a belief that they should continually make it new. Ohno wrote: “Progress cannot be generated when we are satisfied with existing situations.”
Ohno became well-known once the written material on his methods were translated into English. Large financial publications in the West started to write stories about Ohno, and the legends of Taiichi Ohno were born.
So Ohno is relevant to you because he paved the way for the development and success of lean manufacturing.
If you want to learn about the benefits of implementing lean manufacturing, check out this useful article: http://leanmanufacturingtools.org/63/benefits-of-lean-manufacturing/
And remember, thanks to lean manufacturing, Chinese auto makers sold over 18 million vehicles last year, more than was ever sold in the US even at its peak and the Chinese market is still growing.
“If you are going to do TPS you must do it all the way. You also need to change the way you think. You need to change how you look at things.” — Taiichi Ohno