How to Learn the Fundamentals of the Toyota Production System in 30 Days

Anyone can be taught to do kaizen in 30 days.
If you’re wondering how to learn the fundamentals of the Toyota Production System in 30 days (or how to teach it) you can take a hint from the June 23, 2006 article in Nikkei Joho Strategy titled Drumming in the Fundamentals of TPS in 30 Days: This is Toyota’s New Hire Training! The literal title is somewhat more sensational than my translation, and reads “Beating the fundamental thinking into them in a month and a half, this is Toyota’s new hire training!” ( 1カ月半で基本思想をたたき込む,これがトヨタの新人研修だ!). It’s boot camp, but the article mentions no beatings.
The author of this article documented the experience of two of nine new workers who joined ALSO (Advanced Logistics Solutions, a subsidiary of Toyota Loom Works, in Nagoya, Japan) in April 2006. ALSO handles the logistics for automotive parts, not parts used to make automatic looms.
The two new hires were taught the fundamental principles of the Toyota Production System because as people working in a logistics and distribution operation, they would be working within the Toyota Production System. ALSO is not a manufacturer, they are a distributor and a logistics company. Yet the Toyota Production System is applied there just the same.
The article says the new workers immediately started their education in TPS after their morning orientation on the first day of work at Toyota. This included lessons in TPS and a review of videos of the principles. The first month was a repetition of class room learning and watching videos in the “dojo” in the morning followed in the afternoon by going to the gemba to observe and document processes and do kaizen. They had to demonstrate their learning by genchi gembutsu (go to the workplace, see the actual process) every day during this month.
In the first month these new hires study the following topics: kanban, abnormality detection and andons, material flow and transportation, material and information flow, Standard Work, productivity improvement, tools for quality control, and more.
Their assignment after the month of study to spend 3 days in a distribution center doing kaizen. They are required to find 30 improvements per day and ultimately reduce manpower by one person through kaizen. At the end they are to report the results.
Here is a photo of the two brand new Toyota employees showing off the work they did in the first month and a half of studying the work processes and learning the Toyota Production System fundamentals. Note the color-coded yamazumi board (operator cycle time analysis by work element) on the right side of the picture.
In this picture a new employee demonstrates the wastes he found in distribution center processes by studying the process and documenting it in detail on a material and information flow diagram (value stream map).
Here new employee points out the work analysis they did to create Standard Work and the Standard Work documents and kaizen results summary they created during their 3 day activity on the floor of the distribution center.
The author of this article was impressed by how much these two brand new workers had learned about the Toyota Production System in a short time. To the author, this new employee training demonstrated the idea of “developing people”. The author suggested that Toyota should make a business out of selling this new hire training program to other businesses. That’s a great idea. We’ll get to work on it right away.

7 Comments

  1. Anonymous

    September 14, 2006 - 3:26 am

    Hi John
    Thank you for sharing this very interesting article from Japan.
    Can you tell us what level of Employee these guys are.
    Do Toyota or ALSO put every level of Employee through this intensive training at induction.
    Thanks again
    Chris

  2. Jon Miller

    September 14, 2006 - 4:28 am

    Hi Chris,
    The article is vague on this point, only saying that these new hires will work directly in the logistics and distribution operation. I do not believe this means that they will be packing and shipping. They are most likely full-time employees who will be rotated through sales, customer service, planning, human resources, etc. In other words they are office workers and management candidates.
    Thus the added importance of immersing them in TPS for 30 days and making them spend time on the gemba learning the value of genchi gembutsu.
    For a new employee working on the assembly line I believe the in-class training in philosophy, policies and procedures and TPS is typically one week at Toyota. Most likely this varies by location and other factors. Following this is a period of training while working under close supervision and coaching on the line.
    Most Japanese companies we benchmark expect new workers to be fully productive on the line in one month. Starting work assignments and training regimens appear to be designed to meet this goal.
    Jon

  3. Venkatesh Srambikal

    September 16, 2006 - 9:14 am

    HI Jon,
    Thanks you for sharing this article, I guess the Toyota strategy has always been “catch ’em young’; for many of the Japanese engineers I have met, TPS is the only production system they have learnt, seen and worked in – they learn about mass production systems only in text books. Quite on the contrary, in the US we are faced with making people unlearn mass production techniques before training them at anything else.

  4. Tetsu Sugiura

    September 21, 2006 - 9:00 am

    In Japan, the “catch ’em young” is a normal practice. Japan has a different recruitment system for the graduates and the school leavers. Japanese companies employ them only two different category office work(BA) and operational work (BSc) and they train them straight way as in group. They call this training induction training. In my case, I got this in six weeks priod in SONY thirty five years ago, so this is quite normal practice in Japan and nothing to the new things.

  5. Chris

    October 24, 2006 - 2:04 am

    Hi Tetsu
    Please give me a call at Ricoh in Telford we lost touch after you left The Training Organisation.
    Best Regards
    Chris Nicholls
    PS Thank you Jon for this blog, I hope you don’t mind me using your blog to catch up with an old friend (I just hope he reads it)

  6. Jon Miller

    October 24, 2006 - 7:21 am

    Not a problem at all Chris. That’s why they call it an online community.

  7. Tetsu

    October 24, 2006 - 9:35 am

    Hi Jon,
    I will contact to Chris, thanks for your email as well.
    Best regards,
    Tetsu