From the Archives of a Common Sensei volume 33: Underlying All “Lean” Manufacturing Initiatives

The basic principles of effective “Lean” manufacturing (operations) initiatives must include two basic principles (as stated in the attached 1997 document from our Toyota (TIEM) experience):

  • Reduction of cost through elimination of waste
  • Make full use of workers (Associates) capabilities

In this volume of From the Archives of a Common Sensei, we speak to these and additional considerations to make the flow production (principle) work. Various forms of media are filled with discussions about flow, pull, balanced processing, Kanban, waste, JIT, etc., we will graphically show you the interfaced actions of the pull system and the framework for smoothing for just-in–time (in-time) production (processing).

In the attached “Goal/Means Relationship of a Pull Environment” document by Yasuhiro Monden (1983), starting at the bottom of the graphic, you can trace the critical considerations and interrelationships all the way from Improvement activities by Small Groups to Business wide quality control, Waste Elimination, Revenue Increase, and Profit Improvement.

The graphic illustrates the pathway to attainment of Increased Associate Morale and Respect for Humanity. It also illustrates the pathway to attain Just-in-Time (In Time) methods including Product/Service Sequencing and Workforce Flexibility/Workforce Leveling.

In the second attached document “The Framework for Smoothing” by Yasuhiro Monden (1983), starting from the bottom up, you are led through the Production (Process) Smoothing actions required from Flexible Machinery and Reduction of Production Leadtime to Just-In-Time Production leading to Enabling Production that is Promptly Adaptable to Demand Changes.

The Production Smoothing actions within the dashed line box in the graphic are fundamental to attainment of customer demand and building/completing products/services as required by customers.  The details within this graphic are often misunderstood and poorly applied.  The basics of the functions contained in this graphic can and should extend beyond the production/service processes, to include the entire supply chain (to be discussed in BLOG vol.34). 

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As an illustration of an assembly parts staging methodology, the attached drawing (rough as it is) was one that we used during the start of Toyota’s US Lift Truck manufacturing operation in the early 90’s.

The basic philosophy was to:
1) Establish a method to receive and distribute material in the most cost efficient, timely, and orderly manner
2) Provide a base method/procedure on which improvement will take place

For further explanation, below are the different “Part Types” used to identify how various parts were to be used.  Keep in mind that at the start of the US lift truck operation, several key parts were sourced through the parent company (TAL) in Japan while efforts were started to shift most of the component sourcing to the US.

Japan Supplied Parts:

Kanban – small, inexpensive parts ordered by Kanban

Set Parts – large, more expensive parts designated for specific order (i.e., engine, mast, muffler, drive axle, etc.)

Replacement – replacements for damaged parts

Local Parts:

Supplied in the US (tires, batteries, counterweights)

Keep in mind that this example is from the very initial practices used during start-up of the production efforts.  I have displayed it in this blog as an example of how beginnings take place.  By referring to “From the Archives of a Common Sensei Volume 21” you will learn about the sequencing of product production.  In this volume, we discuss how materials can be staged and prepared for sequentially ordering for sub-assemblies and the main assembly line.  For clarification, the US Toyota Lift Truck assembly process has made multiple upgrades and has built on the original “basic philosophy” multiple times during the last 31 years.  Today it is an example of a highly sophisticated, efficient, and effective processing organization built on multiple improvements using the Toyota Production System principles and behaviors.  This operation has expanded multiple times and today is the leading producer of lift trucks.  Click on the URL to get a better understanding as to how far the Toyota Lift Truck operation has matured over the last 30 years.

By looking back over our previous volumes of From the Archives of a Common Sensei where we try to demonstrate the intricate path of acceptance and use of Toyota methods in the US, it is astounding how much progress has been made and the kaizen principle of continuous improvement continues the path toward uncompromised excellence.  It has been a long and meaningful journey for many of us who have had similar experiences!  Toyota is perhaps the leader in the advancement of TPS and Lean, but there are other organizations where advances have also been made as well.  It’s my experience of working with approximately 300 organizations over my career, the ones that succeed in TPS (Lean) advances require continuity of management that is willing to get involved and lead by the same principles espoused by Toyota.

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