The Rise of Lean Production

Summarized by: Bahram Hooshyar Yousefi
MBA – IY 2513
LP 1-2: 2012
Blekinge Institute of Technology, School of Management
Chapter 3: “The Rise of Lean Production”
Womack, J.P., Jones, D.T. & Roos, D. (2007). The machine that changed the world: [the story of lean production — Toyota’s secret weapon in the global car wars that is revolutionizing world industry]. (New ed.) London: Simon & Schuster.

“Correct a mistake immediately – to rush and not take time to correct a problem causes work loss later.”
? Taiichi Ohno

The whole book “The Machine that Changed the World” written by James P. Womack, Daniel T. Jones and Daniel Roos, is about the process of lean production and the third chapter after the second one (which deals with”The Rise and Fall of Mass production”) is discussing the approach of Toyota Motor Company in Japan (the birth place of lean production) and Taiichi Ohno’s methods of productivity maximization.

As mentioned in the chapter, several visits to so called Detroit giants had not impressed Ohno in a very positive way by its dominant production line process of mass production; which he believed there were still wasted time and materials.

The chapter starts with a flashback to after war struggles of Japanese car industries which eventually caused a new attitude to the issue specially in Toyota which had to choose a third solution for production (neither Detroit nor craftsmanship).

Ohno’s system was based on team-work with a defined task of the assembly process to be delivered together and leaded by team leaders not foremen. The team leaders were supposed to work in the assembly tasks and make up any absence of teammates. All the housekeeping, tool repair, and quality checking which were divided task with in-charge personnel in assembly-line method, in Ohno’s method were dedicated to the work teams. Ohno also asked the teams to be involved in the improvement the assembly procedure.

Not like the mass production foreman-based, assembly line stopping, Ohno defined a system that all workers had the permission of stopping the line in case they could not fix a problem and gave them the responsibility of tracing the problem back to its ultimate cause. The number of line stopping has been reducing by time in Toyota which today is almost zero.

The defined relationship between Toyota and its vendors is far from the vertical integrated bureaucracy and also full independence; it is based on equity fraction retainment by Toyota and developing a chain of quasi-independent first-tier suppliers. Ohno’s another method of supply called kanban was based on supporting the idea of producing parts in each level just in accordance with the immediate demand of the next level.

In the distribution level, the dealership has a main role in the production of Toyota; since Toyota applied the pre-ordered oriented system by the delivery time of two to three weeks.