Strategos: Who really developed the
Toyota Production System?
Bodek: I once asked Dr. Shigeo Shingo, "Who really
discovered Lean, you or Taiichi Ohno?" Shingo looked at me and quickly said, "I did, for I
was Ohno's teacher." At a later time I asked an ex-Toyota group manager, Chihiro Nakao,
who worked with both Shingo and Ohno a similar question, "Who really discovered Lean, Shingo or
Ohno?" His answer was, "Which came first the chicken or the egg?"
Of course, both Dr. Shingo and Mr. Ohno
both played significant roles and it was through
their conceptual genius that Lean was born.
Strategos: What were the key personality
characteristics that Shingo and Ohno brought together that provided so much success?
Bodek: They were both
like tigers, fiercely aggressive, neither would accept the idea that something could not be
done. They gave you the concept and told you to do it.
Ohno would simply say,
"I want you to change this warehouse into a machine shop and I want everyone working there to be
retrained. I will come back in one year to see it done." He did not tell them how to do it. Ohno
had the power, as chairman of Toyota Gosei at the time, and was "ruthless." You had very little
choice with him.
Dr. Shingo was also a
tiger, but a gentle tiger. He was absolutely brilliant, probably the greatest manufacturing
genius of our time, able to solve every manufacturing problem presented to him.
His way was different.
He was a teacher. He would help you by asking you questions and encouraging you to experiment.
He knew you had the answers within you. He would teach you about waste and give you guidance on
how to eliminate that waste.
Strategos: How did Ohno and Shingo arrive
at this particular set of elements for their system?
Bodek: Ohno said he
learned from three people: Mr. Toyoda who had visited America earlier, Dr. Shingo who was
Toyota's primary consultant and teacher, and
Henry Ford. Ford was able to build a
car in 4 days from iron ore coming out of the ground to the finished product. Ohno then went and
found a copy of Henry Ford's book "Today and Tomorrow," and said, "If Ford can do it so can we."
Dr. Shingo was an
industrial engineer who studied carefully
Frederick Taylor and
Frank Gilbreth learning about time and
His big breakthrough
was to realize the difference between process and operations, process being the total flow of
manufacturing from the customer's order to the finished product and operations, a series of
machines. By focusing on process he was able to teach us how to smooth out our operations to be
Dr. Shigeo Shingo
extraordinaire, developer of SMED and advisor to Ohno.
Led the implementation of Lean at Toyota in the 1950's and 1960's
Bodek is an author and publisher who was among the first to bring Japanese management
techniques to the West. His new book,
weaves together his own story with fascinating profiles of key personalities such as
Ohno and Shingo along with the principles of Lean.
In this interview, Norman gives us insight to these topics and a preview of his book.
Enthusiastic, optimistic and a dynamic facilitator,
has been instrumental in bringing Japanese management techniques to mainstream American
companies. He has led 50 industrial missions to Japan, knew Taichii Ohno and was a
personal friend of Shigeo Shingo. Norman is a Co-founder of the Shingo Prize.