Five Characteristics of a Production System

Ever since Toyota revolutionized the automobile industry through the development and application of what is now referred to as the Toyota Production System (TPS), companies across the globe have worked relentlessly to apply the principles, methodologies, and tools that can generate a true operational competitive advantage.  

Seemingly everybody is out to create their version of TPS.  Those that have been successful, such as Procter & Gamble, Caterpillar, Danaher, and John Deere, have reaped tremendous benefits.

But for every production system success story, it seems there are many others who have taken the journey with mixed results. That word “journey” is an interesting one.  It’s often used to describe this effort of building a production system. But a journey to where?

Simply put, how does an organization know if they have a production system? Let’s face it, any company can hire a few LEAN experts, run some Kaizen events, 5S a couple of maintenance shops and declare victory. Yet, as mentioned previously, not every company has been able to develop a valid and sustainable operational competitive advantage.

So what are the characteristics that an organization should look for in order to properly assess if their production system investment has been successful?

  1. Everyone’s efforts are aligned to core operational competencies in support of business strategy
    The organization has defined the operational competencies that are most important to the business and all employees both understand the importance of those competencies and work to apply them to the benefit of the business

  2. A common language and approach to managing and improving operations exists across all sites, divisions, and regions In other words, the organization is process dependent, not person dependent , and has a well-defined and documented set of practices and business processes to run, maintain, and improve the operation enterprise-wide

  3. Everyone is empowered to contribute to the operations’ success

    Empowerment occurs at the intersection of capability and accountability.  Some organizations make the mistake of focusing on driving employee accountability without properly investing in their capability. Performance will not improve simply because employees are held accountable for it any more than a small child can dunk a basketball or play a Mozart piano concerto simply because his parents tell him to.

  4. Line management leads and manages change effectively

    Leading organizations almost universally achieve that position because they make and/or embrace change before their competition.  Within manufacturing operations the tone is set by line managers.

  5. A clear process exists for identifying “best practices,” building capability and replicating appropriately

    A big value driver of a systemic approach is that it creates natural opportunities for collaboration and knowledge sharing, which dramatically accelerates the pace of improvement.  But enterprise-wide collaboration won’t happen naturally if the organization does not promote it and remove the barriers that tend to get in the way (e.g., geographic, language, lack of relationships, lack of transparency, etc.)

These five characteristics provide a strong indication as to whether your organization has truly developed a production system or simply has one in name only. EON works with companies across all stages of operational maturity and provides unique tools, including the world’s first comprehensive continuous improvement management platform, designed to help companies dramatically accelerate their production system journey.

Another key step in helping companies achieve operational excellence and a sustainable LMS is the development of a lean maturity assessment. Contact us today to learn more about this topic, and move your company toward meaningful improvement.


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About the author

EON Team

The EON Platform team works tirelessly to write content that provides valuable, actionable insights.