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January 24, 2024, vizologi

Learn Toyota Production System Basics

Interested in understanding the Toyota Production System? This system is widely used by companies worldwide to improve efficiency and reduce waste. Learning its basics can give you valuable insights into lean manufacturing principles applicable to various industries.

This article offers a comprehensive overview of the key concepts and principles of the Toyota Production System. It provides a solid foundation to begin implementing these practices in your own organization.

Origins of the Toyota Production System

The Toyota Production System (TPS) started in Japan after World War II. Taiichi Ohno, the head of production at Toyota, is credited with creating TPS. It spread globally when Toyota partnered with General Motors in California in 1984. TPS is based on two main philosophies: Jidoka and Just-In-Time (JIT). Jidoka focuses on improving quality and adding value to work. JIT, developed by Kiichiro Toyoda, ensures no excess inventory and collaboration with suppliers to maintain production levels.

TPS has been used in various industries, such as manufacturing and automotive. It’s known for its ability to reduce waste, achieve high efficiency, and meet individual customer requirements.

Philosophy behind the System

At the heart of the Toyota Production System are the concepts of Jidoka and Just-In-Time. These were developed by the Toyota founders before the war. They form the foundation of TPS, which aims to eliminate waste and achieve high efficiency. By using these concepts, TPS produces products efficiently based on customer demand, ensuring high-quality standards and meeting individual customer requirements.

The philosophy behind the system makes work easier and less burdensome for workers, creating meaningful work. This approach guides decision-making and behavior within an organization implementing TPS, prioritizing best quality production, lowest cost, and shortest lead time through waste elimination. The concepts of Jidoka and Just-In-Time allow TPS to be maintained and improved through iterations of standardized work and kaizen. The dissemination of these concepts worldwide has led to widespread recognition of TPS as a model production system.

It represents a completely new lean production paradigm compared to traditional mass production.

Key Principles of Toyota Production System Basics

Just-in-Time Manufacturing

Just-in-Time Manufacturing means making only what is needed, when it’s needed, and in the right amount. This helps to reduce waste and avoid excess inventory.

Using this method helps manufacturers work more efficiently by cutting lead times and getting rid of extra stock. It also makes it easier to spot problems and improve quality.

Even though Just-in-Time Manufacturing has lots of benefits, like saving money and boosting productivity, it also comes with challenges. It needs solid coordination between suppliers and a stable production process. Unexpected issues or changes in customer demand can also cause problems.

So, careful planning and strong partnerships are key to making Just-in-Time Manufacturing work well in a manufacturing setup.

Jidoka (Automation with a Human Touch)

Jidoka is a concept developed by Toyota. It combines automation with human intervention. When an issue arises on the production line, Jidoka allows machines to stop immediately. This prevents defective products and gives human workers a chance to fix the problem before resuming production.

This practice showcases the fusion of human intelligence and experience with technology. It ensures product quality and safety. In the Toyota Production System, Jidoka plays an important role in eliminating waste, standardizing processes, and continuously improving. It makes production processes consistent and reliable, leading to a safer work environment, increased productivity, and cost reduction over time.

In real-world applications, Jidoka is visible in assembly lines with automated tools programmed to stop at the first sign of a malfunction. This allows operators to make corrections. It can also be seen in quality control stations, where workers can stop the entire production process if defects are found. This prevents further defects from spreading down the line.

Continuous Improvement (Kaizen)

Continuous Improvement, also known as Kaizen, is a fundamental part of the Toyota Production System. It involves ongoing improvement strategies and techniques. These include standardization, applying the 5S principles (Sort, Set in Order, Shine, Standardize, Sustain), and promoting employee involvement through suggestion systems. These strategies help identify waste and lead to improved quality, reduced waste, and lower costs.

Core Tools of the Toyota Production System

Kanban System

The Kanban System is a visual scheduling system. It helps the Toyota Production System by ensuring a smooth flow of inventory and materials. It uses cards or containers to represent different production stages. This aligns with just-in-time principles, reducing lead time and inventory costs. The system allows the production line to call for materials as they are needed, avoiding overproduction and waste.

This supports a more efficient manufacturing environment, preventing downtime and bottlenecks. It also enhances productivity and quality by empowering workers to maintain a balanced workflow.

Additionally, it improves customer satisfaction by fulfilling orders timely.

Heijunka (Production Leveling)

Heijunka, also known as Production Leveling in the Toyota Production System, works to reduce production volume and product type fluctuations. This helps manage inventory and align production with customer demand. By balancing the production mix, Heijunka creates even workloads, making it easier to identify production issues and uphold quality. This leads to less waste, lower costs, and shorter lead times, improving production efficiency.

Practical uses of Heijunka include mixed model assembly lines, ensuring balanced production of different product variations. It also levels customer orders and work schedules to maximize resources and minimize unnecessary inventory buildup.

Andon (Visual Management)

Andon (Visual Management) is an important part of the Toyota Production System. It helps workers see when something is wrong in the production process. This allows them to solve problems quickly and stop bad products from being made.

Andon uses signal lights, electronic message boards, and sometimes physical tokens to show when there’s a problem. This helps workers communicate and fix issues right away.

By using Andon, workers can take action when something is wrong. This helps them make things better and keep production running smoothly. It also makes sure that products are made well and match what customers want.

Applying Toyota Production System Basics in Practice

Role of Employees in TPS

Employees at Toyota Production System have important responsibilities. They uphold and contribute to the system’s efficient principles. They do this by maintaining just-in-time manufacturing, jidoka, and continuous improvement. Their role is crucial in ensuring that every vehicle meets high-quality standards and customer requirements.

Employees also implement standardized work and the 5S framework to maintain an organized and efficient work environment. This helps eliminate waste and achieve high efficiency. It also focuses on creating meaningful work and less burdensome tasks for the workers, while ensuring the production of high-quality products at the pace of customer demand.

Standardized Work in TPS

Standardized work is important in the Toyota Production System. It helps eliminate waste, achieve high efficiency, and create meaningful work for employees.

By standardizing processes, TPS ensures that every worker follows the same set of procedures and best practices. This results in consistent quality, reduced lead times, and optimized productivity.

Standardized work contributes to achieving consistency and continuous improvement. It provides a baseline for operations, allowing for easier identification of abnormalities and deviations.

TPS maintains standardized work by documenting the best way to perform each job. This allows workers to continuously make improvements to the standard processes.

By implementing key elements such as work sequence and in-process stock, TPS optimizes operations for maximum efficiency. It ensures that every part of the production process adds value without creating waste.

The 5S Framework

The 5S Framework is based on five core principles – Sort, Set in Order, Shine, Standardize, and Sustain. This framework aims to create an organized and efficient work environment, reduce waste, and optimize productivity.

By implementing the 5S Framework, companies can:

  1. Eliminate unnecessary items (Sort).
  2. Arrange necessary items efficiently (Set in Order).
  3. Keep the work area clean and free from defects (Shine).
  4. Establish standardized procedures (Standardize).
  5. Create a sustainable system (Sustain)

In a manufacturing environment, the 5S Framework promotes continuous improvement by fostering a culture of orderliness, efficiency, and discipline.

With clear visual indicators and standardized processes, the 5S Framework helps identify problems quickly, prevent errors, and maintain a safe and clean workspace.

Key steps in implementing the 5S Framework include educating and training employees, organizing work areas, conducting regular audits, and continuously improving the system for sustainability.


The “Sort” step in the Toyota Production System is important. It helps eliminate waste and organize the workspace. Sorting through materials and keeping only what is essential helps the system operate efficiently. It also ensures that every item has its place and there is no unnecessary clutter. This can improve worker productivity.

The key elements in the “Sort” aspect include categorizing items based on their need, maintaining a clean workspace, and creating an efficient work environment for employees.

Set in Order

The “Set in Order” principle is important in the Toyota Production System. It helps create an organized and efficient work environment.

By assigning specific locations for tools, equipment, and materials, the workspace becomes clutter-free and easy to navigate. This principle contributes to efficient workflows in TPS. It ensures necessary items are readily accessible, minimizes unnecessary motion and searching, and reduces errors or delays.

In practice, implementing the “Set in Order” principle involves assessing the workspace needs. It includes creating specific, labeled locations for all items and using visual management tools like shadow boards, color-coding, and clear labeling. Regularly reviewing and updating these arrangements ensures they meet the changing needs of the production environment.

Effectively implementing the “Set in Order” principle helps TPS maintain streamlined and productive operations.


The “Shine” principle is an important part of the Toyota Production System. It contributes to TPS’s overall efficiency and effectiveness by keeping work environments clean, organized, and visually managed. This helps with identifying problems, ensuring workplace safety, and preventing defects.

The “Shine” principle includes daily cleaning and maintenance, waste elimination, and standardizing work areas. TPS uses these practices to create a conducive environment for streamlined operations, improved morale, and enhanced productivity.


Standardization is very important in the Toyota Production System.

By using standardized work, TPS removes the chance for mistakes and variations in the production process. This helps all workers to perform their tasks consistently, making the overall efficiency and product quality better.

Standardization is a key tool in TPS because it helps the organization to find and remove waste, focus on getting better all the time, and make workers more productive.

Standardizing work in TPS is really significant because it gives employees a clear framework to follow and makes it easier to monitor and fix problems when things don’t go as planned.


The Toyota Production System is built on two core concepts: Jidoka and Just-In-Time. These focus on cutting waste and boosting efficiency to make work easier for workers. The 5S Framework—Sort, Set in Order, Shine, Standardize, and Sustain—plays a big role in keeping the system going. It promotes organization, cleanliness, and standardization in the workplace. This makes the workplace safer and more efficient, and also helps in identifying and addressing problems quickly.

Sustaining the Toyota Production System globally brings benefits like better quality, shorter lead time, and higher efficiency. But it also requires significant cultural and operational changes within organizations and managing complexities across diverse locations.

Benefits and Limitations of the Toyota Production System

Advantages of TPS Implementation

Implementing the Toyota Production System offers many benefits. It helps achieve high efficiency and reduces waste, leading to lower operating costs and lead times. TPS prioritizes meaningful work, making the production process easier for workers. Through concepts like just-in-time and jidoka, TPS aligns manufacturing processes with customer demand, producing high-quality products tailored to individual needs.

TPS also promotes a mindset of minimal inventory and streamlined production, reducing defects and improving overall product quality, leading to increased customer satisfaction.

Challenges and Critiques of TPS

The Toyota Production System has faced criticism for being too inflexible for some organizations. This rigidity can lead to resistance to change and cultural barriers, making it challenging to implement TPS effectively. Employees may be hesitant to change their existing work habits. Additionally, the lean manufacturing principles of TPS may not work smoothly across different industries and global manufacturing contexts due to varying production requirements and supply chain complexities.

Despite these challenges, Toyota has strengthened its supply chains and improved manufacturing processes by applying TPS principles in different industries and geographic markets successfully.

Toyota Production System Impact on Global Manufacturing

Influence of TPS on Lean Manufacturing

The Toyota Production System has deeply influenced lean manufacturing.

Jidoka emphasizes detecting defects early and providing efficient tools for employees.

Just-in-Time focuses on eliminating overproduction and speeding up production based on customer demand.

These principles have been integrated into lean manufacturing to reduce waste, enhance productivity, and improve quality.

TPS has widely influenced lean manufacturing across global industries beyond automotive.

It has driven manufacturing practices worldwide to prioritize efficiency, quality, and meaningful work for employees.

Adaptation of TPS across Different Industries

The Toyota Production System has been adapted and used in various industries to increase efficiency. Originally developed by Toyota, TPS principles have been successfully applied in industries beyond automotive manufacturing, including healthcare, retail, and software development.

Adapting TPS principles to different industries involves challenges in customizing concepts like Jidoka and Just-In-Time to fit each industry’s unique processes and requirements. Translation of core principles is necessary, taking into account factors such as demand volatility, production scale, and resource allocation.

The application of TPS principles has significantly improved efficiency and productivity across industries, resulting in reduced lead times, enhanced quality, and optimized resource utilization. TPS principles have helped industries to eliminate waste, enhance operational excellence, and deliver products that closely align with customer needs and preferences.

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