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Taiichi Ohno (1912-1990) was responsible for much of the background work and thinking that created the now widely recognised and much-copied Toyota Production System. He was eventually to become an executive vice-president of the Toyota Motor Company, but much of his early work was undertaken while he was in charge of various machining shops.
Japanese manufacturing has gained a reputation for innovative thinking and developments, and the current Western focus on quality, just-in-time delivery, waste and defect reduction, and kanban systems all have their origins in Japanese manufacturing companies. Toyota's production system has been widely recognized--and as a result widely copied--for its ground-breaking ideas and processes.
The history of the Toyota Production System goes back to the Toyoda Spinning and Weaving Company, set up by Sakichi Toyoda in 1918. This company later became the Toyota Automatic Loom Works. From the outset Sakichi recognised that his main competitors were based in the UK--an early observation of global competition. By 1929 the company had gained a reputation for innovative looms which stopped when there was a quality problem (eg a break in the thread). A British company, Platt Brothers, bought the production and sales rights for this loom for 100,000 [pounds sterling], a deal that was to have far-reaching consequences. This money was given to Sakichi's son Kiichiro to expand the company and to develop automotive technology. The first passenger car, the Model AA, was launched in 1936. A year later the Toyota Motor Company was formed.
Early car production
Henry Ford provided the early inspiration for the development of Toyota's manufacturing systems. Kiichiro travelled widely in his search for the best infrastructure for his company and Detroit was a place where he learnt a great deal. Ford's assembly line system provided the framework upon which Kiichiro based his …