The purpose of this paper is to examine the manifold linkages connecting the Toyota Production System (TPS) back to the Gilbreths and others, and to determine how these have contributed to enterprise‐wide best practice. Industrial engineering (IE) theory rapidly subsumed method study and thereby made considerable contributions to output in World War II (WWII). The outcome is the positing of “contemporary” IE.
Consideration is given to the Japanese Management Association (JMA) personal handshake route originated by Frank Gilbreth in which experiences were handed down in lecture note format by successive generations of industrial engineers. His interaction with the FW Taylor Scientific Management movement is a second theme. The internationally recognised “softer” approach to teaching and coaching due to Lillian Gilbreth is then discussed. Finally the Gilbreth MOI2 Process Chart is examined.
TPS has evolved over an extended period of time to achieve continuous material flow. There has been no single procedure or technical breakthrough. Much of the detail would have been familiar to the Gilbreths. These became evident in the USA and the UK auto industries soon after the First World War. Elements of JIT are recognisable even earlier in the building of the UK Crystal Palace in 1851. However the scenario of the current TPS enterprise would be new to the Gilbreths. Similarly the various ways in which the systems approach has been successfully implemented throughout the organisation would appear strange. This becomes self‐evident via a three‐axis model representation of contemporary industrial engineering.
Newly appointed Toyota executives pursuing the shopfloor based Acclimatisation Course would immediately recognise the method study based waste elimination techniques at work. As Ohno remarked, such removal merely levels the playing field. Knowledge (and above all practice) in their use should be a pre‐requisite skill for employees at all levels. This is a sometimes “hidden” secret of TPS, but dates back to Lillian Gilbreth in 1914.
The paper supports the view that effective product delivery is best driven via sound industrial engineering expertise operating within an active learning organisation. The four level prism model applied to TPS highlights its system attributes.
The paper confirms there is a continuing role for well established method study techniques to be adapted to face new challenges, and output as “contemporary” industrial engineering.
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