The Toyota Template follows the Toyota Production System (TPS). Fujio Cho said, “Many good companies have respect for individuals, and practice Kaizen and other TPS tools. But what is important is having all of the elements together as a system. It must be practiced every day in a very consistent manner–not in spurts–in a concrete way on the shop floor.”
This system is Toyota’s Just-In-Time system. It’s important to understand that the elements of their system were developed to support the pull method. Ohno began implementing the pull method after his visit to the U.S. in 1956. This was Ohno’s secret weapon. He believed that their Just-In-Time system was a manufacturing advantage to the point that, for many years, he wouldn’t allow anything to be recorded about it!
For this reason, The Toyota Template emphasizes the implementation of a pull system. Going forward, over time, this pull system should be developed into a Just-In-Time system.
Most manufacturing is done in a push system driven by schedules. Issues like no synchronization, excessive inventory, poor on-time delivery, lack of visibility, etc. are common. When a push system is mapped it should be no surprise that these problems and more show up. They’re common to ALL push systems.
Furthermore, using the VSM to identify areas for improvement (symptoms) and applying TPS elements as countermeasures in a push system is counterproductive.
Is this possible to do in a “high mix/low volume” environment? I’ve had some interaction with folks who don’t believe that pull is possible in a “high mix/low volume” environment. The general belief is that pull only works in “low mix/high volume” scenarios.
This is not true, in fact, this was the precise situation Ohno faced early on.
In his book, Toyota Production System: Beyond Large-Scale Production, Ohno said, “The Toyota production system evolved out of need. Certain restrictions in the marketplace required the production of small quantities of many varieties under conditions of low demand.” So…..the Toyota Production System was developed for this “high mix/low volume” need.
Just think of all the possible combinations of colors, options, and even models that run down the same line at Toyota today. If you toured a Toyota plant you might see a red Camry LE with a tan interior, and a sunroof followed immediately by a black, hybrid, Avalon XLE with a gray interior and no sunroof. There is constant variation yet they’re able to pull everything through the plant. Today, the Toyota environment is a high mix/HIGH volume.
At the Template, we implement the pull method, even in a “high mix/low volume” environment, because we know how it’s done.