Norman Bodek on TPS history: Who Can Shout Louder? [the broken link was removed]
TPS focuses on improving the overall process from the customer’s demands to the delivery of the product. Prior to TPS, manufacturing companies were filled with smoke stakes, operational centers separated by machine types: the stamping machines, lathes, drilling, milling etc. each producing mountains of inventory taking weeks even months to produce an automobile. TPS focused on eliminating the wastes created by these separate machine centers. TPS primarily focuses on improving the overall process as opposed to the old way of improving the efficiency of each operational center without consideration of the overall flow.
This article continues the chain of articles on the topic – last month: Origins of the Toyota Production System.