Decoding the Dna of Toyota Production System

Topics: Problem solving, Toyota, Machine Pages: 12 (4806 words) Published: August 26, 2013
Decoding the DNA of Toyota Production System is not imitating TPS: Many companies have tried copying Toyota’s famous production system---but without any success. Why? Part of the reason, says the author, is that imitators fail to recognize the underlying principles of the Toyota Production System, focusing instead on tools and practices. This article tells the other part of the story. Building on the previous article, “Decoding the DNA of Toyota Production System,” author explains how Toyota inculcates managers with TPS principles. He describes the training of a star recruiter---a talented young American destined for a high level position at one of Toyota’s U.S. Plants. Rich in detail, the story offers four basic lessons for any company wishing to train its managers to apply Toyota’s system. * There’s no substitute for direct observation. Toyota employees are encouraged to observe failures as they occur----for example, by sitting next to the machine on the assembly line and waiting and watching for any problems. * Proposed changes should always be structured as experiments. Employees embed explicit and testable assumptions in the analysis of their work. That allows them to examine the gaps between predicted and actual results. * Workers and managers should experiment as frequently as possible. The company teaches employees at all levels to achieve continuous improvement through quick, simple experiments rather than through lengthy complex ones. * Managers should coach not fix. Toyota Managers act as enablers, directing employees but not telling them where to find opportunities for improvements. Instead of undergoing a brief period of cursory walk through, orientations, and introductions as incoming fast track executives at most companies might, the executive in this story learned TPS the long, hard way—by practicing it, which is how Toyota trains any new employee, regardless of rank or function. Toyota is one of the most storied companies, drawing the attention of journalists, researchers, and executives seeking to benchmark its famous production system. For good reason: Toyota has repeatedly outperformed its competitors in quality, reliability, productivity, cost reduction, sales and market share growths, and market capitalization. Its net income and market capitalization by the end of 2003 exceeded those of all its competitors. But those very achievements give rise to one question: If Toyota has been so widely studied and copied, why have so few companies been able to match its performance? In the previous article, “Decoding the DNA of Toyota Production System” the authors have discussed that part of the problem is that most outsiders have focused on Toyota’s tools and tactics ----kanban pull systems, production cells and the like---and not on its basic set of operating principles. The earlier article identified four such principles or rules which together ensure that regular work is tightly couples with learning how to do the work better. These principles lead to ongoing improvements in reliability, flexibility, safety, and efficiency and hence market share and profitability. As was discussed in the earlier article, Toyota’s real achievement is not merely the creation and use of the tools themselves: it is making all its work a series of nested, ongoing experiments, be the work as routine as installing seats in the car complex and large scale as designing and launching a new model or factory. Toyota’s commitment to standardization is not for the purpose of control or even for capturing best practice. The standardization or more precisely, the explicit specifications of how work is going to be done before it is performed –with testing work as it is being done. The end result is that gaps between what is expected and what actually occurs becomes immediately evident. Not only are problems prevented from propagating and compromising someone else’s work, but the gaps between expectations and reality are...
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