Lean manufacturing at Toyota

By on May 28, 2012

Lean manufacturing, a spin-off of traditional six sigma, got its start at Toyota in Japan. In Lean Six Sigma manufacturing, turning costs is reduced lead time, reducing work in process, minimizing wasted motion and optimizing material flow. The author of the Toyota Way was Jeffrey Liker, who established the Production of Lean. It is also known as TPS in short and it works very well.

Understanding the roots of lean manufacturing

In 2003, Toyota’s annual profit was greater than GM earnings (Ford and Chrysler integrated). In 2006 Toyota had a capitalization market of $181.4 billion versus %16 billion of GM and @12.3 billion of Fords. A new car of Toyota takes twelve months unlike 3 to 4 years elsewhere. Lexus and Toyota defects lead per vehicle. Lean manufacturing is about relationship and speed between the steps in a process at its heart. Lean manufacturing is about destroying the non value added elements from the process. It is about recoiling the sizes of batch down to develop a one flow of piece (Jovane F, Westkamper E and Williams D, 2009; Womack J P, Jones D T and Roos D, 1991).

Emergence of lean manufacturing

The thinking of lean manufacturing was developed at Toyota with the TPS. In the 1920’s and 1930’s Sakichi Toyoda formulated the original ideas. In the 1940’s Taiichi Ohno began to develop these ideas but in the 1950’s it made the leap with full development. Some of the principles of Lean came from a surprising source i.e American supermarkets where small quantities of inventory are replenished as customers pulled them off the shelf. Shelves are restocked as they become depleted. The preceding process in a pull system must often do what the relevant process tells it. The visual ability to replenish and see low stock is referred as the Kanban system. This is the essence of a pulls system and Kanban inventory.

The toughest part of learning to think lean manufacturing is destroying old ideas, about the mass production and scale economies. These are basically the systems of “push” based on projected demand of a customer. Quality is inspected into the product. These batch and sequence push system ideas must be the first causalities of the Lean transformation. In Lean quality, productivity and low costs come from producing small batches of a product from start to finish without any piles of partially finished goods.


  • Womack J P, Jones D T and Roos D (1991), The Machine that changes the world: The Story of Lean Production, Harper Perennial, New York.
  • Jovane F, Westkamper E and Williams D (2009), The Manufacture Road: Towards competitive and sustainable high adding manufacturing, Springer, Berlin


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