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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Toyota Misconceptions Debunked

Mark Graban from the LeanBlog recently posted about an article in Quality Digest that attempts to set the record straight on ten common misconceptions of Toyota.

Stewart Anderson's Ten Common Misconceptions about Toyota

The article does a good job of making the point that TPS is really the “Thinking” Production System and not the “Tools” Production System. Toyota solves problems that interrupt flow in operations from three sources: muda (non-value-adding activity), mura (unevenness), and muri (strain or overburden). Tools like 5S, SMED, TPM, A3, Kaizen and others are countermeasures to reduce the problems in the current state. Toyota believes that if you are not improving your processes then they are declining.

In Anderson’s explanation of these misconceptions that many have about Toyota and the way they operate he offers a definition of Lean. If you want to understand Lean then reading his rebuttal to the misconceptions will piece together a definition of a Lean Enterprise. Toyota was the first corporation to embody this definition in modern time and of course made it famous.

What is important and subtly mentioned in the article is Toyota is not at perfection or the ideal state. They recognize this better than anyone and focus on improving the current situation to get closer to that target everyday. I had once heard that even at Toyota their ratio of value added to non-valued added work content is like 35 or 45%. Toyota understands solving problems while providing value the customer wants is what gets them closer to the next target condition.

Check out Mark's comments on the article as he highlights a few of these misconceptions.

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