The TWI Blog for the Training Within Industry Community of Practice

A Visit to Toyota

Recently, Bob Wrona and I made a presentation to a continuous improvement group from an international company at their annual CI conference.  The day before our presentation they invited us along on a tour they were taking of the Toyota, Georgetown  Kentucky complex. I’m sure many of you have been there.  I wonder if, like me, you were in awe of the size and complexity of this operation?      

Unlike the general public, following the standard tour, we had the opportunity to meet with an Operations Manager.  He spoke to us about the Toyota Production System (TPS).   He talked about the role of the team leader and identified two key components. First, treat the team members with respect and second  keep the workers from needing to do anything “abnormal” (his word.)   Of course the second component got people’s attention. What did he mean by “abnormal”?  He explained that the workers were trained to follow standardized work and complete their tasks in a prescribed manner and timeframe. If they were busy  solving problems and/or looking for the causes of those problems; they are not doing their standardized work and therefore doing something out of the ordinary or “abnormal”.  The team leader’s job is to  take this burden from  the team member whenever a problem is identified  and get them back to “normal” as soon as possible.    

How do they get back to “normal”?  Through standardized work which, once codified, must be trained to and followed with care.  On the toyotageorgetown website Teruyuki Minoura says: “It’s important to create a climate in which people are trained to follow rules and standards as if they were second nature  … This kind of reflexive response is a hallmark of Toyota’s monozukuri.”  (process of making things)

The website goes on to define standardized work. It consists of three elements: Takt-Time, Working Sequence, and Standard In-Process Stock.  “Takt-Time” is the time which should be taken to produce a component on one vehicle. This timing mechanism is based on the monthly production schedule. Daily total operating time is figured on the basis of all machinery operating at 100% efficiency during regular working hours. The takt time allows us to produce many parts of many different types for use in vehicles on the production schedule and to supply those parts to each process on the assembly line at the proper time. This keeps production on schedule and permits a flexible response to a change in sales.  Working Sequence refers to the sequence of operations in a single process which leads a floor worker to produce quality goods efficiently and in a manner which reduces overburden and minimizes the threat of injury or illness. Standard In-Process Stock is the minimum quantity of parts always on hand for processing on and between sub-processes. It allows the worker to do his job continuously in a set sequence of sub-processes, repeating the same operation over and over in the same order.”  (

 Reading between the lines we see the indelible outline of Job Instruction (JI).  People must be trained to follow  a process that leads a floor worker to do their job correctly,  safely, and conscientiously; with a  set sequence of steps repeated over and over, in the same order.  

When the manager was asked about how they do problem solving, he replied: “The tendency is to jump to a solution before getting to the root of the problem”. He talked about the need to return to the standardized work to make sure the problem is not imbedded in it.  So, he said, we ask the team member to go through the job step by step and recite the key points to us. Sound familiar?  The assumption is they have been trained and know the Important Steps and Key Points (and, I assume, the reasons why).  We didn’t have time to talk about their entire training program, which is quite extensive,  but clearly JI is in there.  

It’s one thing to read about Toyota (TPS)  and how they do things and quite another to see it for yourself. I recommend it.   


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