Lean Production and World War II

During the Shogun era, Japan was known as one of the biggest textile manufacturing countries in the world. However, World War II destroyed the country and its economy. Edwards Deming, the famous quality guru, was assigned to Japan on behalf of the United States government under a few capacities. Deming befriended statisticians while living in post-war Japan and persuaded at least one eminent engineer that statistical process control applied to Japan’s need to dramatically boost economic and industrial performance to recover from the effects of the war. Deming eventually rose to prominence as a respected educator and consultant to Japanese manufacturing firms, sowing the seeds of the Toyota Production System and Lean Production.

With the necessity of Japan to develop and help from Demming, Japan made a successful comeback following a catastrophic war combined to bear fruit for Toyota. Before World War II, Toyota’s top executives had explored quality concepts. However, given Japan’s resources and economy in the 1940s and 1950s, increased performance and efficiency became a more pressing objective. Toyota leaders used statistics and new quality ideas to develop a system they believed would boost output and enable changeable products while lowering costs and guaranteeing quality. They took manufacturing techniques credited to Henry Ford.

Several individuals contributed to the final creation of the Toyota Production System. They introduced automated equipment, defect-prevention quality controls, and efficient methods that had not hitherto been deployed in such detail and consistency. Kiichiro Toyoda had prior manufacturing experience. In his initial work, he improved process efficiency in textile mills by using conveyors and other automated technology. Toyota introduced the same ideas to specific product lines in the Toyota manufacturing process. Later, the concepts of Just in Time and Jidoka were presented by Eiji Toyoda and Taichi Ohno (autonomation). Shigeo Shingo, a renowned industrial engineer from Toyota, improved the Toyota Production Systems later by introducing the ideas of poka-yoke (error proofing), SMED, and zero quality control (eliminating the need for quality control).

Later, the well-known Industrial Engineer from Toyota, Shigeo Shingo, perfected the Toyota Production Systems by introducing the concept of poka-yoke (error proofing), SMED, and zero quality control (eliminating the need for inspection) results).

Lean Production in 1990’s

In 1990, James Womack captured the essence of an in-depth study of Toyota’s fabled Toyota Production System in his best-seller book, The Machine That Changed the World, which made the term lean production known worldwide. The book has been translated into eleven languages and sold more than 600,000 times. A revised edition was published in 2007.

Now, Lean production is not just a manufacturing term. Lean production eliminates waste and applies the “value stream” to all areas of business, including healthcare, finance, and many more.

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