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Introduction to a framework to understand Toyota Production System

Updated: May 7

Since our company has started in 2008, we have been working on our consultation little by little. Our core consultation is “Toyota Production System(TPS)”, which our founder, Hajime Oba, has been trying to coach this system to the world since he started Toyota Supplier Support Center (TSSC) in 1992. Toyota and TSSC are extremely open about “TPS”. Many publications, like Taichi Ohno’s “Toyota Production System” or Dr. Bowen & Dr. Spears “Decoding the Toyota DNA” etc., are extremely helpful.


Our founder had an interesting philosophy. We consult but must maintain a co-learning attitude. As we learn more about the different operations, we saw more opportunities.


Our original thoughts were to come up with a list of things in those gaps. Then we quickly learned that it is like making a dictionary. Nobody needs a dictionary without an end. Just because you memorized a million things, when a new problem happens, we will not be able to handle it if we rely on memory.

We discussed “Kaizen Culture”. We knew that cultural difference exists between companies. But we thought that culture is not necessarily the root cause of the gap. For example, we learned that one interesting culture of Japan, which is time punctuality was not historical. In fact, when Western people started visiting Japan in the 19 century, they were frustrated about how loose the Japanese were on time. When Japan started to modernize and implemented the railway system, they quickly learned that the only way to operate an expensive railway system efficiently was to become time punctual. This time punctual rail system changed the culture of Japan. In other words, the system changed the culture, not the other way around.


We went back to the “System”. And instead of directly going back to TPS, I focused on a pattern of thinking that our founder and people who understand him seem to have. I started to observe some similarities. As I started to imitate those patterns on the shop floor, I started making some "cheating papers". Those were eventually examined by our team, and we saw the potential so I summarized it into a framework that I would like to share.


First, we need to go to the shop floor or the reality and observe. The shop floor is a three-dimensional space and we often try to describe or understand it by words and numbers. Instead of focusing on words & numbers, start to analyze by following this framework which I call “Dimensions of Operations”.

When I go to the shop floor, the 3 dimension world, I use this framework to understand by breaking it down into points - lines - areas - solids. And then, to improve, I use TPS, but always keeping in my mind that every concept of the system has specific rules of each point - line- area - solid on the shop floor. It is not enough just to memorize the meaning of TPS words & numbers.


This is too conceptual so from my next post, I will use more examples.


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