released on May 2004


Kiichiro Toyoda,
Executive Vice President, Toyota Motor Co., Ltd. (TMC), 1937

The Just-in-time concept revolutionalized the way Toyota delivered its products — at the right time, in the right amount and in response to customers’ needs. It was a philosophy born out of Kiichiro Toyoda’s aspiration to cut back on muda, or waste, and develop the most efficient organization for the newly established TMC (Toyota Motor Corporation).

In the 1930s, intent on seeking out new applications for materials, parts and manufacturing technology, Toyoda frequently went to Tokyo to visit universities and research institutes. Following each visit, he would immediately write a memorandum to his staff, requesting them to change a material or manufacturing method.

Engineering research progressed, but rising manufacturing costs became a major problem. “Nothing can alter the fact that a large number of machines are needed to make good automobiles,” Kiichiro said. He proceeded to purchase the latest and most sophisticated machine tools one after another.

Unfortunately, overall efficiency was not as good as expected because the output differed among the various processes. Undeterred, Kiichiro wrote the words “Just-in-time” on a banner and hung it on the wall. “People talk about having missed the train just by a minute,” he said, “but, of course, it’s possible to miss a train just by a second. What I mean by ‘Just-in-time’ is not simply that it is important to do something on time, but that it is absolutely essential to be precise in terms of quantity and not, for example, produce something on time but in excess, since excess amounts to waste.”

“An automobile consists of thousands of parts, each one essential for building flawless, complete vehicles,” Toyoda said. “It is no easy task to coordinate their assembly. Without perfect organization of the assembly process, even a mountain of parts fails to become a vehicle. For the task of coordinating the assembly of thousands of parts, we must design a unique pattern of control and organization. Unless we establish a unique pattern of control and organization, no amount of financial resources will be sufficient.”

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    Executives on completion of Koromo Plant, Japan’s first full-fledged auto manufacturing plant, November 3rd, 1938

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    The body assembly line, Koromo Plant, 1938

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