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Lean Manufacturing

Lean Manufacturing

The Success Story of Toyota

Doing more with less. These simple words are describing the production system which has revolutionized industry. The Toyota Production Systems introduced the theory of lean manufacturing containing the following principles in order to achieve maximum profit and high productivity: continuous flow, just-in-time (JIT), standardized work, quality and reduction of waste.

Toyota Production Systems had impacted manufacturing worldwide becoming the world’s third-largest automaker (in 2000).

But lean manufacturing can be even more than saving a lot of money and avoiding the waste of time. It protects our environment at the same time.

Why? – Because environmentalism is just the result of efficient working processes, less waste and better-running equipment. (enter here for more information)

But ATTENTION! Lean manufacturing is a complex system which highly relies on every employee of the company. Without the support of your assistants it does not work and that is why workshops are invented where employees are discovering a new way to think: to think lean. The way of thinking is the essential tool for new ideas and innovations.

Furthermore, some estimate that only two to five percent of the attempts to go lean succeed, what means that at least 95 % fail. One reason may be the nature of human being to relax after attaining the first success, but the lean process requires time. Companies using the lean tools only for short-term gain will fail sooner or later after they achieved some limited success. Hence companies have to focus on tomorrow not on yesterday.

What happens if you take lean manufacturing too far is what we see looking at Toyota 2009. 8, 5 million cars had to be called back and Toyota faced its worst crisis ever. The recent recalls regarding the insecurity can be traced back to the fact that Toyota stretched its lean manufacturing philosophy to the breakpoint in order to become the number one car manufacturer worldwide.

Today, Toyota recovered from its backlash and is still a very strong company.

Moreover, the theory of lean is based on respect for the people and continuous improvement. In one sentence it is the pursuit of the ideal state. Therefore there is no lean company because there will always be some problems which should force the company to improve continuously.


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The Theory of Lean is about Respect for people!

This video clip shows an interview with a former manager from the Toyota plant in Kentucky.

What’s special about it is that what he says sounds like a vision for the future and not like reality to me. At the beginning he stated that the Toyota Production System is all about solving problems especially find wastes and then improve them.

Respect for the people

Further on he is being asked: “How does Toyota implement the idea of Respect for the people?” and what he then mentioned I might tell to my former supervisor. He illustrates that the respect for the people is present every time. For example your boss would hold the door open for every member of the company no matter in what position he is and that is because everyone is empowered at Toyota and everyone’s opinion is important and respected. Every worker has the same importance in the production process so it will be listened to every idea coming from someone. That way continuous improvement is assured.

Technology does not rank first

Moreover, the manager in the interview stated that Toyota is not only focused on technology, what means they are not interested in having the latest technologies. He explained that people are more flexible than robots. Hence technologies must support people and not replace them. And that is just my point. He answered just to my worries about those new technologies which reduce jobs more and more (click).

Is the argument trustworthy?

What do you think? Maybe I miss some more working experience but I had only one job where my opinion and my suggestions were respected and then, what I’ve heard is most common among today’s working conditions, I made the experience when I worked for a discount shop that it is not important what I think and it is neither important what everyone else thinks. Ideas of improvement were not recognized and everyone just puts pressure on each other. So the question for me is: Had the manager from Toyota said the truth? And when, why is this principle of respect not present everywhere? I know that there is a lot of competition on today’s job market, and the bullying at work is a real problem and everyone is egoistic because he/she wants to keep his/her job. But why is it possible for some firms, despite all these difficulties, to maintain respect for the people, if it is true? Maybe should not ask the managers but the real stuff working in the production lines.


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