Toyota’s Production Process
Many companies have tried to understand and replicate the production process at the various Toyota facilities, but until you stop just looking at the surface and take a deeper look you won’t fully understand all the positive aspects to the production line.
Toyota is known for their distinctive practices and precision work throughout the years and their amazing use of internal benchmarking to help the company continue to move forward. Because of the positives within the company’s dynamics Toyota has comfortably been on top of other companies in their industry.
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Toyota is not shy when it comes to show and giving ideas to other manufacturers to improve their own processes, but very few actually accomplish the success that Toyota has. Not because it is too trying to do, but because the manufacturers that come into to evaluate confuse the tools and practices they see on their plant visits with the system itself. The process at Toyota isn’t a process that you can simply look at and understand; you truly have to get a closer look and really dissect it.A study was done to understand the process completely including service functions like equipment, maintenance, workers’ training and supervision. All of these sections were taken into a count because the service functions help and are responsible for the whole process moving the way that it does.
Toyota, like other manufacturers has many specifications set to create everything correctly, but only thing that Toyota does to get those specifications where they need to be is using a hypothesis method. It is a rigorous problem solving method, but it has shown to be very beneficial to the company.The article summaries the four rules that they believe to underlie the Toyota production system. Rule 1: How People Work; all work shall be highly specified as to content, sequence, timing and outcome. This rule is implemented well because it doesn’t just target senior workers or supervisors; it is set in place to be accomplished by all workers no matter the hierarchical role. Although this may seem obvious that a manufacturer would complete every task this way it actually is the case at most companies.Other companies are completing the tasks presented, but they aren’t following through and making as precise measurement and protocols as Toyota does.
For each ‘station’ there are timings to when things should be done to complete in a timely manner while making sure things are done correctly. The detailed step through every process keeps Toyota moving smoothly and efficiently. Rule 2: How people Connect; every customer-supplier connection must be direct, and there must be an unambiguous yes-or-no way to send requests and receive responses.Toyota has created outstanding relationships between each person and the individual who is responsible for providing that person with each specific good or service. An outcome to this is that there is no discrepancy with the timing of shipment and who is making the shipments. This rule extends to the consumer as well. For instance if something is wrong with the product there is no problem figuring out who will assist with the problem that arose.
The number of workers within a team is set out based on the number of problems that may occur during the process.Toyota exemplifies a direct and effective method through each step of the development process. It is designed that people are suppose to respond within a certain time frame and with this provision it doesn’t allow for errors to occur and if they do arise then it will be dealt with timely manner. Toyota stresses helping others through the process so it is everyone’s responsibility for things to be completed on time and with no errors. If help is needed, help must be received in the time it would to complete the task that is in need of some help.By doing this problems are hidden or pushed to the side, but rather called attention to and fixed as soon as possible. Rule 3: How the Production Line is Constructed; the pathway for every product and service must be simple and direct.
The production line links each person who contributes to the production and delivery of the product, form the Toyota factory. This rule simply means that the process isn’t just moved from person to person, but more specific. The job is moved from specific person to specific person to make it more efficient and reliable.When this is applied to every ‘station’ of the development process there is less of a chance of error or variance among the workers. This doesn’t slow down the process by any means; instead it actually speeds up the process because the process doesn’t need to be stopped for fixing or maintenance. Within Toyota’s plants the pathway for assistance is three, four or even five links long, which connects the workers to the floor managers. In the past Toyota experimented with the method of just moving the process to the next available person, but this system showed to not benefit Toyota’s production line.
When Toyota implemented the idea of moving it to a specified person rather than just the next person the process was more productive and less likely to cause error. Rule 4: How to Improve; any improvement must be made in accordance with the scientific method, under the guidance of a teacher, at the lowest possible level in the organization. Toyota really stress the fact that training is necessary to complete any task, not just by senior employees, but an actual training clinic. In the Toyota plant for example workers were adjusting and perfecting their problem solving skills by redesigning their own work.Managers were training the employees to frame the problem better and to formulate and test a hypothesis, which is an example of the scientific method. If the employees in the company think that the process could be more productive if they were to change something in the process then it is expected, by the managers to explain the process change and the logic behind why it would work better than the process before. Frontline workers make the improvements to their own jobs, and their supervisors provide direction and assistance as teachers.
This process remains the same even at higher levels and more complex jobs within the company. This means that the learning and the problem solving done takes place in all areas of the company not just one. When looking at Toyota’s production system you can see a direct correlation between their process and a lean development process. A lean development process is about doing more with less and doing it with speed and right the first time around. This is exactly what Toyota exemplifies.There are four distinct components to lean processing; customer relationships, production development, order fulfillment and supply chain. Those four components coincide with the four rules set out in the article.
Toyota completely uses the less is more policy by using less time, inventory, space, people and money as stated in lean processing. Because the line runs smoothly at Toyota it takes less time to actually assemble products and this is directly related to the specifications set out at each ‘station’ and the team work that is involved with finishing the product.Toyota saves a lot of money as well because they aren’t going back and fixing the process repeatedly and the chances of errors are rare. At Toyota they also try to have a limited number of inventories because inventory costs a lot of money for a company. Instead of having inventory Toyota uses the just in time method. This method is used to make products to order right when the customer needs the product. Overall the process at Toyota is efficient and hard to immolate.
Toyota is a prime example of a productive lean process that has shown to help a company and put the company on top in the industry.