The Toyota Production System

Toyota is an automotive manufacturer based out of Japan, specifically headquartered in the Aichi Prefecture. It was founded in 1937 by Kiichiro Toyoda and has grown rapidly since that day. It is now the world’s fifth largest company by revenue. How have they achieved this? Their production system that they developed played a large part in doing that.

The Toyota Production System (TPS) is Toyota’s spin on the lean manufacturing system, or a JIT (just in time) system. The system all started with Sakichi Toyoda, who invented the automatic loom which automated work that was done manually. This invention greatly increased productivity and work efficiency. Kiichiro then followed along with this precedent, and continued to create methodologies and techniques to eliminate waste. The result was the JIT system and later, the TPS.

The TPS is based off of two concepts, one called “jidoka” and the second is the concept of “Just-in-Time.” “Jidoka” can be loosely translated as automation with a human touch. The machinery will process what it needs to do then safely stop once it is complete. However, if the machine detects a defective part or has an equipment malfunction, it will immediately shut down. This prevents defective products from being produced and therefore leads to only products that satisfy quality standards moving on to the following processes along the production line. The machine will then communicate with an operating room whether it has finished its process or has shut down due to a problem. The operators can continue working with other machines as well as identify the machine’s problem with ease, allowing the operator to be in charge of many machines which improves productivity. Since the operator can easily find the problem in the machine, they can fix it and prevent it from occurring again, allowing for greater processing capacity in the future.

The second concept of “Just-in-Time” for Toyota in a nutshell is “making only what is needed, when it is needed, and in the amount needed.” By utilizing the concept of “jidoka” the products will always meet quality standards which in turn allows “just-in-time” to function. From there, “Just-in-Time” focuses on the complete elimination of waste, unreasonable requirements, and inconsistencies in the production line. Toyota’s “Just-in-Time” follows these steps. When a vehicle order is received, an instruction to produce is issued to the beginning of the vehicle production line as soon as possible. The assembly line must have the required number of needed parts stocked so that any type of vehicle ordered can be assembled. The assembly must replace the parts used in the order from the parts-producing process. The last step is that the parts-producing process must be stocked with a small number of all types of parts and produce only what was taken from the assembly process for the order. By this system Toyota is able to efficiently build a vehicle in the shortest possible period of time.

Due to how effective their processes have been, the TPS has been studied by others worldwide. They have done everything they can to eliminate muda (waste) in their assembly lines and inventory, and because of this still deliver quality products to people all over the world.



8 thoughts on “The Toyota Production System

  • March 1, 2018 at 12:52 pm

    Toyota is well known in the industrials industry as having one of the best and most lean production systems in the world economy. Many other Fortune 500 companies look to Toyota to research how to base their own quality and production procedures. This has been true for many many years but in 2011 Toyota faced its own problems when it had to recall nearly 2.2 million vehicles because of a dangerous issue where their accelerator would get stuck. These recalls hit Toyota hard both financially and in the eyes of the public. Their CEO was questioned in front of a congressional panel and faced critical scrutiny. However, the way Toyota has been able to address these problems since the issue has been impressive. They launched a new architecture for their production and product development as well as new manufacturing initiatives. These ideas, in addition to fundamental quality changes, helped Toyota continue to be an example of supply management, even after a large and public mistake.

  • March 1, 2018 at 8:48 am


    Thanks for writing this post about the Toyota Production System. I previously had heard about the efficiency and speed at which Toyota manufactures their vehicles and wondered what made their process so unique. Also, Toyota was used as an in-class example of a company that has successfully implemented Lean systems into their processes, but your post explains how in much more detail.

    I found very interesting that one of the major elements to Toyota’s process was “jidoka,” which means automation with a human touch. Before I read your article, I would have assumed that Toyota implemented a fully –automated process in which they used robots and statistical analytics to completely eliminate any “muda,” or waste from their processes. However, this human touch element allows for them to be more adaptable to problems that come up in their manufacturing process, and the human element actually ends speeding up the process.

    The second major element, “Just-in-Time,” which essentially means “making only what is needed, when it is needed, and in the amount needed” is a concept that we have thoroughly discussed in class. I had considerably much more background knowledge on this subject than on the idea of “jidoka,” but still, your post outlined Toyota’s specific process so that I was able to visualize in my head what “Just-In-Time” really means.

  • March 1, 2018 at 8:26 am


    I enjoyed the topic you of Toyota’s TPS system. You did a good job of describing the basic history and outline of both the company and its famous manufacturing system. I found myself wondering how Toyota was able to create such a great system, what it does so well, and why other companies haven’t adopted the same system if it is so great. So, I decided to look further into the subject and found an article titled “Evolution of Toyota Assembly Line Layout – A Visit to the Motomachi Plant.” Constantly adding or removing workers depending on the output time of the different sections of the line, as well as the workers efficiency. Other companies have a hard time emulating this system because of the high amount of inventory on hand it requires. The combination between Jidoka and JIT seems to be working great for Toyota and can teach a lot to other companies.

  • February 28, 2018 at 9:11 pm

    Layne, this is an interesting look into Toyota’s production method. I knew that Toyota must have had some form of efficient production since the auto supplier makes so many cars and operates at a high volume/consumer-level price point. The “Jidoka” method is ingenious. Instead of having employees located at every step of the production line to ensure quality of manufacturing processes, automation throughout is a way to ensure quality while retaining levels of efficiency. Additionally, pairing this “jidoka” with a JIT strategy us a phenomenal way to increase production levels while ensuring quality is not diminished. I wanted to take this opportunity to do a bit of background research on the TPS and see where it’s history lies. Interestingly enough, Toyota’s forefathers observed and broke down the Ford production process and modeled the TPS based on the American company’s flaws. For example, Ford had issues with employee grievance due to continuous work in a mass production structure (worker’s rift). Also, issues with quality, flexibility, and overproduction seemingly hindered Ford’s production process. Toyota strived to avoid these issues and create the TPS that is as efficient as they come and produces at a high level. You can read the essay on Toyota’s development of their production system here:

  • February 28, 2018 at 1:29 pm


    Your post was a great overview of the Toyota Production System (TPS), and its importance to Toyota’s success as a high-quality, low-cost automotive manufacturer. There was an article in Bloomberg earlier this month titled, “Toyota’s Way Changed the World’s Factories, Now the Retool.”

    The article discusses Toyota’s recent creation of a “kaizen” headquarters (kaizen refers to the Japanese word for “continuous improvement,” a tenant of TPS and lean manufacturing). The kaizen group, made up of 200 employees, is in charge of implementing kaizen techniques and culture in Toyota’s other businesses. The motivation for this change is a result of the changing automotive landscape—the growth of pure electric vehicles, autonomous driving technology, and consumer robotics. As these markets grow and Toyota’s investment in them increases, Toyota is hoping that the TPS and kaizen philosophies that made them the envy of the automotive world can help them compete with the Google’s, Uber’s, and Apple’s of the world.

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    • February 28, 2018 at 3:35 pm


      Your discussion of Toyota’s creation of “Kaizen” in relation to their Toyota Production System strategy is very interesting. I think it is very impressive that Toyota has a group of 200 employees that are dedicated to continuous improvement and to finding solutions to problems faced by Toyota. I think Toyota’s “Kaizen” contributes to their successful production system strategy. Because Toyota is dedicated to continuous improvement, they can update and rework their production system to ensure that it is working efficiently as demand, technology, etc. are continuously changing.

  • February 28, 2018 at 11:53 am


    We just mentioned in class how the production system used at Toyota is studied worldwide because it is known as an effective and efficient production system. As you mentioned, Toyota is currently considered the fifth largest company based on revenue primarily a result of their production system. The production system used at Toyota is named after Toyota and is known as the Toyota Production System. It is a version of the lean manufacturing system that encompasses the two concepts, “jidoka” and the “just in time” philosophy.

    Recently, the CEO of Tesla, Elon Musk made a statement to investment analysts that Tesla will “out-Toyota Toyota when it comes to lean manufacturing” ( I believe Tesla has a huge challenge ahead of them if they want “out-Toyota” since Toyota has been known to be a leader of understanding production. Toyota’s production reputation even has led to Toyota being studied worldwide by other businesses and business schools. Musk thinks he can “out-Toyota” by simplifying the car design making it easier to manufacture cars, installing more robots, and packing cars more densely on the assembly line. I think there are problems in the approach Musk believes he can fix Tesla’s production issues in addition to transforming Tesla’s production approach to better Toyota’s approach. The approach Musk has mentioned can lead to waste since it appears that Musk wants to fully automate the car production process. This would allow Tesla to crank out cars ignoring customer demand. This goes against what we learned in class about the Just in Time Philosophy and the goal to eliminate waste. Excess inventory can be a downfall to any production-based company. Also consumers are looking for customization as opposed to mass produced vehicles. Currently, consumers are wiling to pay for uniqueness not similarity. Tesla is aiming to increased production while Toyota has actually limited its production. I guess only time will tell whether Tesla or Toyota’s production system is more efficient and effective.

    • March 1, 2018 at 1:40 am

      I found it interesting that you highlighted the connection between the established Toyota corporation and their lean productive system with Tesla, a newer competitor in the market who is attempting to further improve on their production systems which could still be considered developmental at this point.
      Researching the Toyota production system, one can learn that the basis of their lean manufacturing model relies on reducing common wastes in the manufacturing process so that the factory is functioning at maximum efficiency and products made are of the highest quality. The 7 wastes are: overproduction, waiting transporting, inappropriate processing, unnecessary inventory, unnecessary motion, and defects. By mixing well-trained workers with a strong base of automation in their plants they are able to closely monitor the production process and minimize defects while utilizing money, materials and factory-hours as efficiently as possible.
      Elon Musk has made the statement that he wants to “out-Toyota Toyota” concerning manufacturing processes at his Tesla plants. However, his plans to outdo the masters of lean production seem to be shortsighted. Musk believes that Toyota could improve by increasing automation and production to a significant degree, and that Toyota is capable of more production than they are limiting themselves to. While it is true that Toyota is capable of more production, limiting overproduction is one of the key components to eliminating waste which drives the Toyota production process. By producing only what can be immediately sold and shipped, Toyota has a smooth flow of materials and avoids costly expenditures on storage.
      Musk’s view on production process may yield some benefits for Tesla in the future, but when it comes to lean manufacturing of cars, Toyota’s specialized system is incredibly efficient at finding waste in a manufacturing process and eliminating it.


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