What is the Toyota Production System?
What is the Toyota Production System? Simply put, it is the best known way to manufacture an automobile. That alone would be quite an notable feat. However, over the decades of its development, the Toyota Production System has become much more, serving as the basis of Lean manufacturing movement, and representing the third major step in the evolution of manufacturing (following craftsmanship and mass production).
The most common representation of the Toyota Production System is in the model of a house (click the image below for a free .pdf or use the buttons at the end of the page to share via social media):
Even with an apparently simple model, the Toyota Production System is extremely difficult to understand at a deep level. And if it weren’t complicated on its own, learning TPS is made even more difficult by the lack of trustworthy resources on the topic.
The Problem with Most Toyota Production System Books
In the introduction to the Japanese edition of his masterpiece, A Study of the Toyota Production System from an Industrial Engineering Viewpoint, Shigeo Shingo wasnotably critical of books written about the Toyota Production System (TPS):
“One of my concerns after reading several books on the Toyota Production System is that, while such books do outline principles and techniques with detailed explanations, their treatment of the subject is specific and anecdotal, rather than systematic.”
As the decades have passed from the publication of Dr. Shingo’s work, and while the Toyota Production System has been popularized – and some say diluted- in the form of Lean manufacturing, little has been accomplished in moving our understanding of these concepts away from individual tools and techniques toward an interdependent SYSTEM of satisfying customers.
Dr. Shingo continued by foreshadowing the implications of our flawed understanding:
“In order to successfully implement the Toyota Production System, you must have a correct understanding of the basic ideas behind these principles AND the knowledge of methods and techniques to be able to implement them in a systematic way; otherwise, I fear you are likely to make serious mistakes which will result in the failure of the system – even if you have a clear understanding of the individual techniques.”
Sound familiar? If not, it should. Today, an estimated 98% of lean initiatives fail to meet their anticipated results. What can you do to help reverse this concerning trend? Start by educating yourself, properly.
Only the Best Toyota Production System Books
Fret not, because the waste of overproduction in Toyota Production System books has been completely eradicated in the Lean Book Shop. Here, you will find only the most trustworthy resources ever published on the Toyota Production System. Emphasis on SYSTEM.
Books on the Toyota Production System – the systematic approach to lean manufacturing – can be separated into two broad categories, and I believe it is critical to understand both:
- Technical System Analysis. Think of these as the textbooks for Lean manufacturing. These references analyze the systematic components of the Toyota Production System and teach the key principles and techniques that make the system work as a whole.
- Historical Context & Evolution. These books trace the history and development of the Toyota Production System and lean manufacturing over time. Experience has shown that those learners who understand the evolutionary nature of lean manufacturing principles and practices are best able to adapt them to suit the specific needs of their situations.
Toyota Production System Books: Technical System Analysis
Toyota Production System: An Integrated Approach to Just-In-Time is hands-down the most complete, and thorough assessment of the Toyota Production System ever published, and one that I refer to on almost a daily-basis. Dr. Shingo’s master study of the Toyota Production System also comes highly recommended for its combination of historical detail and technical analysis. Beginners to TPS and Lean manufacturing, however, would be best to start with Lean Production Simplified for a basic introduction.
Toyota Production System Books: Historical Context & Evolution
The first four books in the gallery all provide useful, historical perspectives and analysis on the development of the Toyota Production System. Of note are Evolution of Manufacturing Systems at Toyota, the most complete history of TPS in text, and Mr. Ohno’s first-hand perspective as the creator of much the Toyota Production System. The Machine that Changed the World chronicles the transformation of the Toyota Production System into the origins of Lean manufacturing. And Toyota Under Fire shines light on another seminal moment in the history of the Toyota Production System, the recent Toyota recall crisis.
Toyota Production System Books: Just-in-Time
Just-in-time production is one of the supporting pillars of the Toyota Production System which includes the concepts of continuous flow / one-piece flow, pull systems / kanban, single minute exchange of die (SMED) / quick changeover, and takt time. If you are looking to learn the principles of continuous / one-piece flow and pull / kanban systems, the workbook series (Creating Continuous Flow, Creating Level Pull, and Making Materials Flow) from the Lean Enterprise Institute are the best choices. Dr. Shingo’s book on SMED is still the essential source for quick change over and batch size reduction.