Shigeo Shingo’s Influence on TPS

A very interesting article by Art Smalley based on an interview with Mr. Isao Kato: Shigeo Shingo’s Influence on TPS [the broken link was removed]. For those interested in the history of the Toyota Production System this article provides some excellent information.

Some background on Isao Kato:

As much as anyone alive Mr. Kato knows the history of TPS development from an insider’s point of view from the 1950’s forward. He also had working relationships with Mr. Ohno even more so with Mr. Shigeo Shingo (or Dr. Shingo as he is known in the west). One of the interview topics I discussed with Mr. Kato related to the historical role of Shigeo Shingo in the formulation of TPS inside Toyota Motor Company. Much to my surprise the role of Mr. Shingo and actual development of TPS according to Mr. Kato has been somewhat mistaken over the years especially in the U.S.
Mr. Isao Kato: By far the biggest area was helping us develop a course that replaced the Job Methods (JM) part of TWI. Together we summarized Mr. Shingo’s material into a training course that we called the “P-Course which stood for production and how to analyze a production process. As I mentioned he trained a couple thousand young engineers and managers over a twenty year period. His influence on these people and their subsequent ability to see problems and waste was quite large.

The article does convincingly argue those most responsible include the Toyoda’s and then many others inside Toyota such as Ohno.

First the origin of the term JIT was coined by Kiichiro Toyoda in the 1930’s and not by either Mr. Ohno or Mr. Shingo. Mr. Ohno experimented on machining lines in Toyota and arrived at a working model of TPS with replenishment pull and other techniques before Mr. Shingo arrived on the scene at Toyota.Additionally the second pillar of TPS of Jidoka dates back to 1902 and the invention by Sakichi Toyoda of his automatic loom that stopped at the sign of a defect. Mr. Ohno came from the automatic loom factory part of Toyota and started separating man from machine and building in quality as soon as he transferred to Toyota’s automotive company in 1945…

Thirdly the concept of “respect for workers” inherent in the system is a concept that comes more from the Toyoda family than any other source.

To me (though this may be more my view than the view of the article) the details provided make clear that many people participated in creating the Toyota Production System as we know it today. The article reinforces the role of the Toyoda’s (which the recent focus on Ohno and Shingo has downplayed).

However the Toyota Production System as we know it today would exist with just the effort of any several people: not the workers (even Toyota’s), not the senior leadership (the Toyoda’s), not internal management experts (say Ohno), not engineers (trained by Ohno, Shingo and others), not consultants (say Deming and Shingo), not previous manufacturing experts (Henry Ford). Each group, and the remarkable people involved, participated in making TPS what it is today.

Art: How famous is Mr. Shingo in Japan?Mr. Kato: Unfortunately not very much. I think it is analogous to the situation with Dr. Demming for example. In the U.S. for many years Deming was ignored and yet widely received in Japan. We invented a famous prize for him. In Shingo’s case he is not well known in Japan especially compared to Mr. Ohno. But I believe that Mr. Shingo is somewhat famous in the U.S. and I heard there is even a prize his name.

Art Smalley includes a great deal of additional interesting information.


4 thoughts on “Shigeo Shingo’s Influence on TPS

  1. Pingback: Curious Cat Management Improvement Blog » Blog Archive » Toyota’s Early History

  2. Pingback: Curious Cat Management Improvement Blog » Blog Archive » Dr. Shigeo Shingo

  3. Pingback: Curious Cat Management Improvement Blog » Blog Archive » Origins of the Toyota Production System

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